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Editor & Publisher 
David Pringle 
Deputy Editor 
Lee Montgomerie 
Assistant Editors 
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Matthew Dickens, Andy Robertson 
Consultant Editor 
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No 73 July 1993 



Storm Constantine: The Green Calling 6 

Timons Esaias: Norbert and the System 16 

Lawrence Dyer: The F our-Thousand- Y ear-Old Boy 28 

Christopher Evans & others: Gollancz SF/Fantasy Preview 33 
Terry Bisson: By Permit Only 44 

William Whyte: Kennedy Saves the World [Again] 50 


Interaction: Readaers’ Letters 4 

Greg Egan: Interview by Jeremy Byrne & Jonathan Strahan 22 
David Langford: Ansible Link 41 

Nick Lowe: Film Reviews 42 

Prof. John Barrow: Interview by Paul McAuley 46 

Graham Andrews: Alan E. Nourse Bibliography 57 

John Clute & others: Book Reviews 59 

Cover by Mark Harrison 

Published monthly. 

All material is © Interzone, 1993 

ISSN 0264-3596 

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and individual queries welcomed. 

interzone July 1993 3 


Editor’s Note: The recently-announced 
winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award 
for best s/novei pubJished in Britain in 
1992 was Marge Piercy’s Body of Glass 
(Michael Joseph/PenguinJ. The choice 
of winner has already aroused some 
controversy — see David Langford’s 
report on page 39 of this issue. Now 
past-winner Colin Greenland has sent 
us a letter adding his voice to the 

Dear Editors: 

So Arthur Clarke is giving Marge 
Piercy a thousand pounds. I must 
admit it is hard to see why. 

The judges have done nothing 
wrong, there’s no point in berating 
them, or the institution of the Clarke 
Award itself. Their job is to agree each 
year on the best sf novel published in 
Britain, without condition or qualifi- 
cation, and that’s what they’ve done. 
The problem is, an award is not just a 
reward: it’s a decoration; literally, an 

An award doesn’t just belong to the 
author it’s given to. It belongs to the 
person who provided it, whose name 
is on it. It belongs to the publishers, 
who must make the best use they can 
of it. It belongs to the booksellers, who 
may choose to give it prominence 
among their proliferating heaps of 
undifferentiated stock. And more than 
all of these, it belongs to the people on 
whose behalf it is given, the ones who 
recognize it and give it its value, and 
all the others whose attention they 
hope to attract by means of it. 

I haven’t read Body of Glass, and 
wouldn’t dream of contesting the deci- 
sion. Nor do I in any way begrudge 
Piercy her prize. I hope she will trea- 
sure it as much as I treasure mine. But 
insofar as there really is an sf commun- 
ity in these isles, made up of people 
with common interests and fellow 
feeling, we must all suspect that this 
year the Clarke Award has gone to an 
author who doesn’t need it (or the 
money that comes with it), who will 
gain no benefit from the association 
with the name of her benefactor — at a 
publisher who will have no use for it; 
on behalf of a community that doesn’t 
approve it; while the booksellers and 
the public will not even notice it. 
Surely we must all regret the recurring 
inability of jury after jury to find a 
British author on whom to bestow the 
British sf award, set up by a British 
author to encourage and promote sf in 
his native land. And this at a time 
when British sf is as rich and diverse 
and vital as it has ever been! 

I’m not of a sufficiently legalistic or 
pedantic cast of mind to dictate how 
the rules should be framed, to 
privilege nationals or residents or 

4 interzone July 1993 

countries of first publication. All I say 
is that I shall feel reassured about this 
year’s decision only when it has been 
so loudly and univocally deplored that 
the terms are revised, to reclaim the 
1993 Arthur C. Clarke Award before it 
loses its point and its credibility, and 
to turn it into what, correct me if I’m 
wrong, Arthur meant it to be in the first 
place; an annual award for the best 
British sf novel. 

Yours in hope, 

Colin Greenland 
Harrow, Middlesex 

Dear Editors; 

I kept meaning to write to you concern- 
ing David Pringle’s comments in the 
issue 70 letters column - and then I 
found that I’d delayed so long that 
issue 71 appeared. Sorry for the dated- 
ness of this reaction, but some things 
in 71 suggest that it’s still relevant. 

Yes, David's right, there are two dif- 
ferent issues arising here, but then, he 
hasn’t got to grips with either of them. 
Firstly, there’s the accusation that you 
value a big name on a story above good 
content — that you publish famous 
writers solely because they are fam- 
ous. Every major fiction magazine gets 
accused of this, every editor denies it- 
and (almost) every one of them does it, 
so blatantly that denials just make 
them look stupid. (Perhaps some of 
them genuinely delude themselves, 
once they’ve seen where a submission 
comes from.) On this basis, the Bob 
Shaw special issue at least scores 
points for honesty, although I have to 
say that I found the contents pretty dis- 
appointing by Shaw’s (often high) 
standards. However, as every editor 
around finds it commercially neces- 
sary to behave in this way, I’d say there 
was no real need to attack Interzone, 
which is far from the worst offender. 

And I’d have to guess that the infam- 
ous Aldiss “Horse Meat” was not pub- 
lished as a cynical commercial man- 
oeuvre — or if it was, you’re feeling 
pretty silly now, with subscriptions 
lost for it. Yes, it was skilfully, power- 
fully written; no, “entertainment” 
shouldn’t be the sole criterion for the 
decision as to whether to publish 
stories; but if a piece of writing is struc- 
tured as fantasy, and so says nothing 
effective about the real world (and this 
one certainly failed on that score - see 
other letters), while being too blunt to 
change attitudes, and too brutal to 
entertain - what is the point of it? After 
reading Aldiss’s and your comments 
on the subject. I’m left with the suspi- 
cion that people who spend their lives 
working with fiction get lost in the 
closed world of writing, and forget that 
“outsiders” have a different set of 

Perhaps that sounds like a vapid 
plea for the bitter pill to be coated with 
sugar; perhaps it is. However, if writ- 
ing that does nothing but entertain is 
empty and pointless, writing that 
refuses to entertain is just dead, 
although it may twitch for a while. 
(And I bet some people will love that 

The popularity poll votes in favour 
of “Horse Meat” suggest that some 
readers do want this sort of thing in the 
magazine, and I can’t quite say that my 
dislike of it was sufficient to make me 
wish for censorship. However, what 
these people presumably want - and 
what the story constituted - was some- 
thing closer to horror than “Science 
Fiction and Fantasy,” which is what 
your cover promises. Well, okay, 
there’s an overlap, and you’d have a 
pretty anodyne magazine if you 
rejected every submission with hor- 
rific elements - but in the end, there’s 
also a difference, and you’ve really got 
to decide which market you want. Hor- 
ror is a popular genre, and the book- 
shops are hardly short of it; good sf and 
fantasy are a little scarcer. As a lover of 
sf. I’d be sorry to see you move the 
other way, and lose my subscription - 
but you’d evidently keep those other 
people, so why should you care? 

If you want to know where I’d tell 
you to place the “limits of decorum,” 
tough; that’s your job, and we all know 
that they have to be mobile. But if you 
find yourselves pushing them out- 
wards a few miles, do ask yourselves 
why. Does the “indecorous” story 
achieve anything worthwhile? Or are 
you only publishing it because it’s 
written competently (not a virtue in 
itself), or because it has a famous name 

By the way, congratulations on 
number 71 - one of your better issues 
for some time. Well, I’m a little uncer- 
tain about the sexual politics of the 
Jonathan Lethem piece, but I imagine 
that he enjoyed writing it. William 
Barton’s “Slowly Comes a Hungry 
People” was both intelligent and 
ingenious: I’m a bit uncertain about 
both the punchline and the level of 
conceptualization displayed by the 
hominids in the story, but as a cool, 
powerful, insidious study of the 
human capacity for inhumanity, it left 
poor old Brian Aldiss trailing. 

Phil Masters 
Baldock, Herts. 

Dear Editors: 

I’m afraid I must add my voice to those 
who have objected to Brian Aldiss’s 
“Horse Meat.” I felt rather sickened, 
especially since he was one of the writ- 
ers who really “turned me on” to sci- 
ence fiction in the early 1970s. So — 

part of my sick feeling was disillusion- 
ment, the other part was just,.. sick- 
ness at gratuitous sex/violence. 
There’s enough of it in the world (and 
especially this corner of it] not to need 
further confrontation with it in a “liter- 
ary” magazine. 

While not disputing his writing was 
intense and has lost none of its techni- 
cal brilliance, I do feel there was some- 
thing far more disturbingly absent. It 
had something to do with an almost 
dispassionate detachment from his 
characters — it was as if he didn’t care 
what happened to them. And that also 
meant I did not really engage with the 
story — only on an abstract level of out- 
rage at human representatives abusing 
and being abused. But we all know that 
this happens, in any case. Where is the 
sense of revelation, that (for me) is an 
important component of a good story? 

“Downbeat” has nothing to do with 
it. Samuel Beckett has written 
“downbeat” stories which I’ve really 
enjoyed. It comes through in his 
stories that even if the cosmos doesn’t 
care for his characters, at least he does. 
And that seems to be the disturbing 
deficit in Mr Aldiss’s story. 

Yes, disturbing stories that chal- 
lenge should be published in Inter- 
zone. But Mr Aldiss’s story did not 
challenge or disturb - it merely sic- 
kened me. If I was so inclined, it may 
be just as effective to stop and leer at a 
gruesome road accident. But because 
being human means something more 
to me than that, I generally prefer to 
read Interzone. 

Nick Wood 

Cape Town, South Africa 
Dear Editors: 

The fiction highlight of 1993 so far has 
to be Astrid Julian’s “Irene’s Song.” It’s 
interesting that this story should have 
been published hot on the heels of the 
“Horse Meat” controversy. Brian 
Aldiss stated in his defence of his story 
that it “...comments on what is hap- 
pening now in Jugoslavia...” “Irene’s 
Song” is a far more eloquent comment. 

On this subject, you asked in Inter- 
zone 70 for readers’ opinions on your 
editorial policy regarding the publica- 
tion of “dangerous” material. I would 
say the policy you currently have is 
fine. I’d rather see a rumpus over a 
story in your “Interaction” column 
than think you were shying away from 
publishing quality fiction because it 
might provoke an unfavourable reac- 
tion. I am certain that the editors of IZ 
would not deliberately publish por- 
nography - equally I am certain that 
nothing I have ever read in IZ (includ- 
ing “Horse Meat”) has ever been a 
deliberately crafted piece of pornog- 
raphy. I’m satisfied that whenever a 
story is as upsetting and shocking as 
was “Horse Meat” its intent goes 
beyond outraging or titillating the 
reader — sometimes the intent may be 

lost in the narrative, but this can be 
equally true of the “tamest” story. Any 
story becomes difficult to read, for 
whatever reason, if it wanders from, 
and misses, its point. 

I agree entirely with David Pringle’s 
comment in IZ 70 that sf should be 
more than “mere entertainment.” 
Interzone ’s given plenty of evidence of 
this in the past in stories such as 
“Irene’s Song” and “The Original Doc- 
tor Shade,” to pick out two fine exam- 
ples. IZ’s editorial policy is almost 
bound to occasionally throw up stories 
which will have readers cancelling 
their subscriptions in outrage. How- 
ever this is preferable to a “play safe” 
policy which gets people cancelling 
their subscriptions in boredom. I for 
one do wish to be challenged by at 
least some of the fiction I read, which 
is why I’m renewing my subscription. 
Nigel Davies 
Yiewsley, Middx. 

Dear Editors: 

As Ken Brown noted in Interzone 64, 
“barely rational attacks on everything 
Japanese” by Americans, like Michael 
Crichton’s Rising Sun, are annoying. 
Equally annoying are anti-American 
diatribes by Britons like James Love- 
grove’s “Britworld™” in Interzone 66. 
I have no sympathy with anti-Japanese 
ranting by Americans. Nobody forced 
them to buy Japanese cars, TVs, or 
stereos. I’m not really moved by 
British complaints about the 
encroachment of American culture on 
their country either. Nobody’s forcing 
them to eat at McDonald’s, watch the 
Superbowl or Dallas, or listen to 
Madonna. Nobody’s forcing them to 
turn their country into Disneyland 

I realize that I’m going to be accused 
of taking a satire like “Britworld™” 
too seriously. Yes, I realize that it’s 
meant to be funny, but that’s a cop-out. 
It’s also typical of one difference bet- 
ween Britons and Americans. When 
they get paranoid, Americans produce 
hysterical, belligerent books like Ris- 
ing Sun, while Britons become snide 
and smug, as Lovegrove has in “Brit- 

Incidentally, if Lovegrove wants to 
make fun of Americans, he can at least 
try to accurately parody American 
dialects. If the narrator Wanda-May- 
June is supposed to be American, she 
would never use the term “merchan- 
dising kiosk,” She would also not exp- 
lain the word “bus” by referring to the 
word “coach.” It’s “coach” that’s 
unfamiliar to Americans, not “bus.” 
Also, if the name “Wanda-May-June” 
is intended as a parody of the southern 
American tradition of double names 
for women, please note that such 
names are not hyphenated. 

Wendell Wagner, Jr. 

Greenbelt, Maryland 

Editor: Apologies /or inadequate edit- 
ing. We realized James Lovegrove had 
made an error over the use of the word 
“bus” - wasn’t Bus Stop a well-known 
American play and film of the 1950s? 
- but we forgot to correct his text in 
time. As for the merits of his satire in 
general, those are for each reader to 
judge. We found it quite amusing, and 
most of our American readers seem to 
have taken it in good part. 

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it’s not really worth their while (or 
ours) if they send cheques for very 
small amounts .-. we recently 
received one cheque for 25 pence 
(which cost us 18 pence to return 
to its sender) ! 

If you’re making small orders, 
whether buying single 
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costs less than £5 ($10 USA), we’d 
be much obliged if you could pay 
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dollar bills are acceptable from 
overseas - but not other 
currencies, please.) 

inlerzonp July 1993 5 

S he feels she is losing her humanity, bleeding 
into the green and the damp. Her flesh is 
sprouting silvery, scaly fungus that has to be 
dabbed with ointment every night. She is never dry. 
And now, trapped and held by the vengeful green, the 
legends no longer seem implausible. 

It was Canvey’s notes that started it off. 

“At night, the man-woman looked in through the 
screen door. It seemed to be naked, its skin covered in 
a green pigment.” 

A man-woman? Could mean anything. An effemi- 
nate boy, a masculine girl. Some deranged dream of 
Canvey’s. Perhaps only an illusion, kindled in the 
sputtering lamplight; a face beyond the screen. The 
green calling. 

Silva wishes she’d never seen those words. It is too 
easy to believe in them when it’s dark. 

She dreamed of rain for three consecutive nights 
before she began the journey that led her inevitably to 
Canvey’s Retreat, on the inner jungled slope of an 
extinct volcano, in the heart of the Neotropic cloud 
forest in this remarkably preserved region of Central 

America. Not gentle, soothing rain but furious hot 
downpours; unending and corroding. It was presenti- 
ment perhaps, or just an educated guess. 

Now, bathed in a patina of her own sweat, she sits 
gazing at the gauze-covered window openings of the 
Retreat, wrapped in a steamy lamp-light haze, listen- 
ing to the pitiless downpour beyond the mouldering 
walls. Dying insects convulse upon the page beneath 
her hands, poisoned by the odourless insecticide 
painted onto the inner walls. The desk she is sitting at 
groans as she shifts her position to glance at the place 
above her right wrist, where her dark-coloured shirt 
leaves the skin exposed. There is a strange discoloura- 
tion of the flesh there, a strange consistency. Deliber- 
ately, Silva pulls down her sleeve. A rogue torturing 
thought meanders through her sluggish mind: I will 
never go home, never. I will stay here forever until the 
moulds and the lichens cover me and kill me. She 
stands up abruptly to stem the discouraging mantra. 
She opens the screen door and looks outside. 

Beyond the meagre light of the lamp, the night is 
hot-breathed, pungent, saturated darkness. Silva 

6 intc^rzone July 1993 

feels the jungle’s presence rather than sees it; she 
senses its voluptuous oppressiveness. She knows that 
somewhere out there her companion preservationist, 
Lai, is intruding into the brutal, deadly lushness, 
perhaps crouched beneath a drooping tree-fern, or 
squatting on the sodden walkway that cuts a perilous 
pathway through the foliage. 

“Where are you?’’ Silva hisses into the night. 

Lai is not human, but a multi-task biomech, laborat- 
ory-bred, laboratory-tested. To some degree Silva 
shares this heritage, even though her specialities, her 
genetic nudges, are widely different from Lai’s. In 
many ways, the jungle is their mother, enveloping 
and vast: it spawned the plants that surrendered the 
magical elixirs which permeated the womblike fluids 
in which Lai was constructed by molecular comput- 
ers and Silva floated as a foetus. Silva, like Lai, is an 
experiment. For the experiment to be successful, she 
will never age. She is the daughter of Longevity Prog- 
ram VI. The fate of daughters/sons one to five remains 
unknown to her. 

Silva does not want to call out into the dark. She is 

afraid of what she might invoke, something other than 
the sleek wet form of Lai, something so very other. 
Then again, she hates to be alone here at night. It is too 
easy to succumb to tbe feeling that she is being 
watched. She has two human assistants, Luis and 
Jesus, who are locals, but they take one of the vehicles 
back down the trail to the village at the end of every 
afternoon. Silva is spending more and more time 
alone, poring over the documents and data-disks that 
are bursting from every damp wooden box and rust- 
ing crate in the Retreat. Most of them can be junked 
but there are jewels to be found; Canvey was one of 
Virichem’s best operatives. Now that he is dead, his 
notes and files are treated with reverence. They are to 
be preserved - the paper documents laminated, the 
magnetic media transferred to holocrystal. Canvey 
supervises these procedures from the walls. There are 
dozens of photographs of him as a young man pinned 
up around the desk. He was 67 when he died; alone, 
uncared-for, malnourished. The victim of a stroke. 
There are no photographs of himself as an older man. 
Only the memory of his youth kept him company. 

inlorKono July 1993 7 

Illustrations by Gerry Grace 

And who knows what wild ideas Canvey came up 
with, living alone here in this wilderness? Who 
knows what he might have discovered? 

o much information is lost every day,” 

Silva’s mentor Alcestis once said to her. 

“Every day, priceless human knowledge 
crumbles to dust, data is corrupted, never to he 

“But surely someone else will think of it one day,” 
Silva said, frowning. “There are so many of us. Some- 
one will think the same thing again.” 

“That is not the point,” Alcestis replied stiffly. 
“Each mind colours the information it generates with 
its own unique tone. There is no such thing as precise 

It was Alcestis who encouraged Silva to specialize 
in information preservation. Alcestis was a young 
research grad then. Now, she is a woman going grey 
who’s discovered her metaholism is inexorably slow- 
ing down. Silva still looks like a teenager. She and 
Alcestis have maintained a close friendship via com- 
puter link for a long time, but never meet face to face 
any more. Alcestis resents growing old. 

■Thinking of Alcestis, Silva wonders whether she 
should go back indoors and call her via the laptop. 
The laptop will not last for much longer, she is sure. 
At this very moment, in this landscape of speedy 
adaptation, a new mould is bound to be developing 
that specializes in eating computers. Silva wants to 
tell Alcestis about the patch of strange skin on her 
arm; she wants reassurance. Alcestis has a medical 
background; she will know things the over-worked, 
not-too-informed local doctor will not. Silva has been 
putting this call off for several days. 

She glances at her watch to try and work out what 
time it is where Alcestis lives. The watch has stopped. 
She notices its face is partly occluded by a yellowish 
stain. Tears of weary frustration gather in her eyes. A 
dear friend, years dead, gave her that watch. Now it is 
tainted, half eaten by the jungle. She removes it lov- 
ingly, saying under her breath, “I hate this place.” 

T he laptop makes a disturbingly unfamiliar 
noise when Silva turns it on; a tired whine 
deep in its micro-depths. A moment of panic, 
the fear of being isolated , is interrupted by a more sen- 
sible thought: so, order another one! (But what if the 
roof-dish falls apart? What if .. .What if . . .?] The com- 
puter utters a musical sequence. Silva squats down in 
front of it and turns off the video eye. Presently Alces- 
tis’s face will appear on the screen, while all Alcestis 
will see on her home monitor is Virichem’s logo. It is 
better that way. Silva is worried that if Alcestis 
should see her, she’d be compelled to make some 
kind of light-hearted sarcastic comment. Silva 
doesn’t want to hear anything like that, because the 
words will drip with pained bitterness. The two 
women haven’t seen one another for years. People 
like Silva never feel comfortable speaking about what 
makes them different. There is a kind of unity in that. 
At least, Silva has never heard them speak. In the 
centre where she grew up, there were other genetic 
experiments; some more obviously so than others. 
They never fell for the line that they were “special.” 
Some of them died too young, others simply fell apart: 

8 inlorxono July 1993 

emotionally, psychologically and in a few sad cases, 
physically. Silva is one of the lucky ones. And yet, 
even now, at the age of 37, there is a danger Silva 
might begin to age dramatically, or develop a plague 
of cancers, become blind, lose her hair. She has seen 
some of those things happen to others. Bald children 
eaten from the inside; faulty flesh machines. The time 
that Silva lives through never really feels as if it 
belongs to her. Is that because of what she is, or sim- 
ply part of feeling human, being a woman? Does 
Alcestis feel the same? 

“Oh, you’re going out.” It is obvious to Silva than 
Alcestis has dressed up for some occasion. Gems 
sparkle at the corner of each eye. The woman lodks 
good; she’s lost weight, although the lines on her face 
seem deeper. 

“Silva! How are you? How’s the jungle! Oh God, it’s 
been so long! I feel awful. . .I’m just. . .” Alcestis pulls 
a comical face, and sits down before her video eye. 
“What the hell! Five minutes? He can wait!” 

“You look great!” 

“Nonsense! You can only see me from the waist up. 
Gravity is winning the battle with my will-power, my 
love, never mind my muscles! I’ve got Researcher’s 
Arse; somes from sitting at a monitor all day!” 

“No really, you look. . .” 

Alcestis interrupts. “So, how’s it going? Had Gan- 
vey discovered all the serets of the universe as 
everyone thought?” 

Silva shakes her head, even though Alcestis can’t 
see her. “If he did. I’ve yet to come across the evi- 
dence. I think he was off his head at the end. There’s 
some very weird stuff.” 


“Yeah. I think he was seeing things! I’ve found 
these notes about, well, creatures.” Silva’s laugh 
sounds a little embarrassed even to herself. 

“Greatures, eh!” Alcestis grins and wipes a lock of 
hair from her brow. “What kind?” 

“He describes them as green men-women.” 

Alcestis shakes her head. “Hmm, perhaps you 
should lose that stuff! Sure he wasn’t writing a 

“Hadn’t thought of that actually. He was looking 
into local legends, though I’m not sure whether he 
made them up. This place is a bit creepy.” 

“Yeah, you sound... tense.” 

Silva is sure that Alcestis is wondering whether she 
should ask her to turn on the video eye. Her concern 
would make her want to inspect her friend, but Silva 
knows Alcestis is afraid that what she would see 
might sicken her, anger her. She’d once said, “the 
worst thing about growing old is that 1 can remember 
what it was like to be beautiful.” Silva respects that 
and yet she wants Alcestis to see her. She needs reas- 

“It’s bad for the health here, so damp.” 

“How much longer have you got to stay?” 

Silva shrugs. “Until the job’s done. I’ve got a 
biomech assistant, but Rodgers gave it some other task 
to do. It’s always out collecting samples. Isn’t much 
help. A1 . . .” 

“What?” The image suddenly shifts, blurs. Silva’s 
heart jumps. Don’t fade, don’t go . . . 

“I’ve got this patch on my arm. Think it’s some kind 
of fungus, but it won’t respond to treatment.” 

Alcestis frowns. “Is it spreading?” 

“No... I don’t think so. It doesn’t hurt. I’ve tried a 
topical anti-fungal agent on it, which might be keep- 
ing it down, but it won’t cure it. Everything gets eaten 
by mould and fungus here. I don’t like it.” 

“Can you get to a local doctor?” 

“Yeah, it was she who gave me the ointment.” 
“What was her prognosis?” 

Silva sighs. “She sees so much, so many diverse ail- 
ments. The jungle causes them. She says she often 
sees cases that she knows she’ll never see again. She 
didn’t seem that worried though.” 

“But you are. . .” 

“Well. . .1 suppose I’ve got a touch of Cabin Fever.” 
She laughs. “I’m scared I’ll turn into a walking mush- 
room, like something out of an old Japanese movie!” 
“Are there any other symptoms?” Alcestis asks, 
suddenly and sharply. 

“What do you mean?” There is a moment of tense 
silence, during which Silva incubates a hot core of 
anger. “It’s not cancer!” she says at last, “and no, there 
are no other symptoms.” 

There is another moment of silence and then Alces- 
tis says, “Turn on the video, Silv.” 

“No, there’s no need. I’m fine.” 

“We had a promise!” 

“Now is not the time to honour it, Al. Really. I’m 

Alcestis sighs. “Look, I’m not going to mince words. 
Get back to that doctor and, if she has the facilities in 
that godforsaken place, get her to check you for soft 
sores. You can’t afford to play around, Silv.” 

Silva is furious. She wants to say, “you want me to 
die, you want me to fall apart. You’re wishing it!” but 
it is not in her nature to confront people. “OK,” she 

“I mean it, Silv!” 

“I said OK. Look, don’t you have a date waiting? I’ll 
call you back some time. Take care, Al.” Abruptly, 
Silva breaks the connection. 

For several minutes she sits stiffly, paralyzed by 
rage. How dare Alcestis say those things! She inspects 
the place on her arm where the discolouration stains 
her skin. It is not a soft sore, she is sure. It’s something 
else, it has to be; something jungle-born. The face of 
Canvey, youthfully thin, grins down from the wall. 
He stares beyond her. 

S ilva lies sleepless on her bed, the Retreat grind- 
ing and flexing around her. The forest is chas- 
tened by a hurrying wind. Before dawn, Lai 
comes in and stands by the window processing infor- 
mation. Its hum is comforting, even though it lacks 
the human desire or sensitivity to utter a greeting to 
Silva. Its shape is almost human so that it can give 
public presentations without causing distress to chil- 
dren. It can speak in a computerized voice that 
sounds vaguely West Indian. 

Staring at it in the dark, Silva is convinced it has a 
personality, a soul; Lai just keeps itself to itself. Its 
work fascinates it, but nothing else is of interest. It is 
blessed with the ability never to feel lonely. Neither, 
Silva is sure, can it feel afraid. 

E arly morning. Mist hangs down from the forest 
canopy in shrouds. The air is not hot, but it is 
very humid. Silva is standing on the damp 
wooden walkway that has been constructed as a pre- 
carious safe route through the forest. The planks feel 
spongy underfoot; already the wood is rotting. Silva is 
playing a game with herself. In this game, the forest is 
the garden of Eden, the primordial garden. In Eden, 
there was only one of every tree, shrub and fern. Here, 
it is the same - almost. Two tree ferns, remnants of a 
prehistoric age, grow close together in the lush 
foliage. Overhead, aerial gardens of orchids, ferns and 
mosses droop tendrils downwards. Everything is 
poisonous in Eden — plants, animals and insects - but 
Silva knows that natives to this land build up an 
immunity to such things. Luis and Jesus are up at the 
Retreat transferring some data Silva has prepared 
onto holo-crystals. Today, Silva is trying to feel posi- 
tive, actively fighting lethargic depression. (There is 
nothing wrong with me.) Standing here, on this nar- 
row sanctuary, she has to fight the compulsion to step 
off the path. Potential death lies to either side. Luis 
has told her to watch out for the ajo vine; if someone 
steps on one they become irretrievably lost in the 

What would happen if I did that? Are there any 
foundations to their legends? Perhaps the vine gives 
off some kind of vapour if it’s bruised that causes dis- 
orientation. There is an explanation for everything. 

The forest canopy meets over her head and invisi- 
ble animals and birds traverse the aerial pathways. 
Silva squints upwards, narrowing her eyes into the 

What else lives here unseen? 

The jungle is older than memory, and though par- 
tially ravished by the encroachment of humanity, still 
able to reserve a deep inner chastity that is both 
dangerous and inviolable. Silva wonders whether she 
can will something inexplicable to manifest before 
her eyes, whether she can fool the jungle into giving 
up one of its secrets. Green men-women? The wistful 
fancies of a lonely madman. No such thing. And yet, 
as she thinks that, the sensation of unseen eyes fixed 
upon her unguarded back sweeps over her like a wash 
of fetid, warm water. She can smell something that 
reminds her of vomit, or certain species of fungi; 
sweet carrion. Something is waiting to drop onto her 
from the whispering canopy; something is thinking of 
dropping down onto her. She looks over her shoulder, 
and there is a blur of green movement at the corner of 
her vision, but then there are always blurs of green 
movement in this place. Silva has yet to develop what 
Luis and Jesus call search image -a refined visual sen- 
sitivity to the teeming shadows of the jungle. There is 
nothing between me and the Retreat, she thinks. I can 
get back at any time. Sbe can even see the walls of the 
place at the end of the walkway: a short run. 

The noise of the forest seems to have fallen; it is like 
a song being sung in a lower key than usual. Silva’s 
precise footsteps sound loud on the soaked boards. 
She turns her gaze back up towards the canopy over- 
head, strains to discern some camouflaged shape amid 
the green. Then there is a sound which could have 
been a human laugh or the call of a bird, and a cascade 
of warm liquid splashes down onto Silva’s upturned 
face. She splutters and stumbles, surrounded by a 

iiiier/.oiic July 1993 9 

lemon ammonia reek. Urine! It has got into her eyes, 
her mouth. She is blind, fumbling along the hand-rail, 
retching uncontrollably. Luckily, Luis hears her 
curses and spittings, and comes out of the Retreat to 
investigate. He laughs as he hears her angry explana- 
tion, as she wrings her trembling wet hands and paws 
the front of her shirt. 

Urine. Yes. Monkeys do that. Piss onto travellers. 

I ater, her hair and body washed in the primitive 
shower — luke-warm gritty water — her mouth 
J well sluiced with mint mouthwash, Silva sits 
down at Canvey’s deajc to work. Her head is wrapped 
in a towel, her body in a robe. Lai lurks somewhere in 
the room behind her, though wrapped in its own 
thoughts as usual. 

Earlier, Silva asked it what it thought about Can- 
vey's notes on the subject of humanoid life-forms in 
the forest. Lai was philosophical. 

“I would rule nothing out in this place. So much of 
this territory is uncatalogued, but then one would 
suppose the natives would know more about it, if it 

“Supposing they’d want to tell us,” Silva added. 
“We are the despoilers after all.” 

“I doubt whether everyone holds that view,” Lai 
said, and then utilizing its intuition banks, added, 
“Have you discovered some more evidence to support 
Canvey’s theory?” 

Silva shrugged. “I don’t think so. Perhaps I’m look- 
ing too hard for evidence, and they do say that an 
obsessed seeker will inevitably find what they’re 
looking for. . .in one way or another.” 

“Whether they create it for themselves or not,” Lai 
added. “Perhaps that explains Canvey’s notes. He was 
searching for a dream.” 

Silva laughed. It amused her to hear the machine 
speak in that way. 

“I intend to work outdoors tonight,” Lai said. “Will 
you be all right alone?” 

It was the first time it had expressed concern for 
Silva’s welfare. She immediately became suspicious, 
defensive. “Of course I will! Why shouldn’t I be?” 

Lai was impervious to waspishness. “Well, keep 
the bleeper by you anyway. I won’t be too far away.” 
As Lai ambled, in its strange gliding gait, towards 
the screen door, Silva grabbed a limb that, in a human, 
would be an arm. “What do you know?” she said, eyes 

“Regarding what?” 

“Why are you suddenly bothered about my well- 

Lai gently pulled away from her hold. “I am merely 
empathizing with you. You are my close colleague. It 
is one of my utilities.” 

Silva let it go. 

T he night presses down on Silva. She is trying to 
read some scrawling notes of Canvey’s, which 
at some time must have got wet. It is a difficult, 
rather pointless task. She has her hands over her ears, 
because she keeps tuning in on strange noises out- 
side. Of course, these noises will have been there ever 
since she arrived, only now her active mind insists on 
applying labels to them. She can hear what sounds 

10 interzoa« July 1993 

like whispered conversation in high, clicking voices, 
or conversation that’s coming from an old radio hid- 
den just inside the forest. Occasionally, a howler 
monkey will roar like a drunken man. There are no 
lights outside. 

Her arm is itching slightly. When she scratches the 
strange skin, some greasy, silver scales come off 
under her nails. Soft sores? No! Soft sores usually 
originate in the groin or armpits; moist areas. (But 
everywhere is moist in this climate!) 

“Oh, stop scaring yourself!” Silva says out loud. 

She turns a page. Canvey was writing in brown ink, 
a colour like dried blood. She realizes she hasn’t been 
reading the words for some time; only scamiing the 
pages while paying acute attention to her own 
agonized thoughts. Now, a few sentences seem to leap 
at her from the page. Above them are some notes on 
forest biomass; below a list of provisions Canvey once 
required from the research station downtrail. But the 
words in between, like a bolt of inspiration, stand out 
alone. Curling script. A feeling of ancient times. 

“They come at night - though never seen. Dawn - 
they manifest, come through to me. Green dawn - 
time of the undying. Like water children; sleek as 
seals, or fish . . .” 

Silva reads the words several times. She cannot 
help feeling that Canvey must have woken up 
momentarily from a lethargic state, become truly 
alive, to write them. 

Silva can feel her heart bumping. Sitting there 
alone in the modest halo of the hurricane lamp, there 
can be no question of disbelieving what Canvey 
wrote. He meant it. He’d seen what he wrote about. 

A t first light, a flock of birds known as the guar- 
dabarrancas, the guardians of the ravine, 
k wake Silva with their tinkling song. It sounds 
as if a thousand wind chimes are being subtly excited 
by a tantalizing breeze. The light, when Silva opens 
her eyes, is opalescent, glowing. Gold-green radiance 
falls in spears across her bed, shining motes held in 
the beams. The air is cool, caressing, and has a sparkl- 
ing taste, like fern wine. Silva is caught in a transient 
moment of pure Earth beauty, those times when the 
planet unveils itself, when it does not realize it is 
being observed by a member of the hungry race it 
spawned. Silva stretches languorously, ignorant of 
the moment, simply being it, when she becomes 
aware of the unfamiliar shape in the room. She 
realizes someone is standing among the long coats - 
most of them Canvey’s, one hers - that hang near the 

“Lai,” Silva says, and props herself up on her 
elbows in the bed. 

The shape moves forward a pace from the shadows. 
It is slim, green, alien; not Lai at all. Silva thinks: 
Should I scream, jump up, find a weapon, or wake up? 
These thoughts are quite lucid and calm. 

Instead, she does nothing but observe. 

The figure, though uncomfortably unfamiliar and 
impossible to categorize, has a sleek, streamlined 
beauty. There is a feeling about it of extreme age, yet 
vibrant youthfulness. It is hairless, and apparently 
sexless, though reminiscent of both genders. Muscular 
yet slight. Its eyes are a phosphorescent vivid green, 
like quetzal feathers. Despite its alien appearance. 

Silva is very much aware of its consummate Earthly 
origin. It is like the tinkling hirdsong, the wild hazard- 
ous heauty of the forest, the magical light, made flesh. 
Like Silva, it is ageless. 

“We are kin... in a way,” Silva thinks. There is no 
fear inside her, only a huge sense of expectancy. 

Her visitor extends an arm; too long, out of propor- 
tion. It opens its mouth as if it is shaping words, but 
no sound comes out. It is encased by the ancient gold 
light of the cloud forest. 

Then, the moment of pure beauty is ended, and the 
light changes, the birds lift from the trees in a raven- 
ing crowd, their song disordered. 

Silva-blinks into the shadows that are left behind. 
There is no one the room with her. 

A lcestis calls midmorning. 

“Can you believe it. Rod’s going to be work- 
k ing just a hundred or so klicks away from you. 
Isn’t that a coincidence?” Alcestis laughs. Today, she 
is very much “at home,” her hair tied up in a girlish 
knot on top of her head, peacock-blue silk kimono 
hanging open to reveal the upper curves of a chest that 
is deeply tanned, but the skin is beginning to crinkle, 
like the most delicate tissue paper. 

“Who’s Rod?” Silva asks. She cannot help sound- 
ing cold because she hasn’t forgiven Alcestis for the 
previous conversation they had. 

“I’ve been seeing him... Oh, he’s inconsequential! 
The important thing is that I’ve invited myself out 
there with him! Silva, I’ll be able to visit you!” 

Silva is stunned by these words. Alcestis sounds 
like an excited teenager. She has not suggested a 
meeting since . . . since Silva hit 25 and Alcestis hit 30. 
A parting of the ways. Tacit veil drawn over their 
association, the friendship mutating into whispers 
through the veil. 

“Here?” Silva’s voice sounds choked. 



Alcestis pulls a face, shrugs. “Oh, a few days’ time. 
Can’t specify exactly when. I’ll have a look around . . . 
I’m interested in Rod’s field, after all. Maybe I’ll play 
the entertaining companion for a while before 
scrounging some company transport and heading up 
to see you.” 

“It’s not an easy journey,” Silva says. 

“No, it isn’t,” Alcestis agrees blithely. 

“It’s really very boring here.” 

“You’re trying to put me off, aren’t you!” Alcestis 
utters another laugh, almost convincingly. 

“We haven’t seen one another for so long.” 

“I want to see you, Sil.” 

S ilva is thrown into a panic by the threat of 
Alcestis’s impending visit. She gets Luis to 
drive her down to the doctor’s surgery in the 
village again. The doctor is a small Spanish woman, 
who, to Silva, looks as if she should be the heroine of 
a romantic novel. 

Silva grins as she extends her arm for examination. 
“Can’t you just scrape this stuff off?” 

The doctor ignores the suggestion. “Any pain?” 


“A little.” 

interzone Julyl993 11 

“Try this ointment.” 

“Haven’t I tried this before?” 


Silva sighs. “What is it? Y on must have some idea. ” 
The doctor shakes her small, perfect head. “I’ve 
seen nothing like it. At least it isn’t spreading.” 

Silva clears her throat and utters the words she 
hates. “Could it be . . . cancerous?” 

The doctor glances at her sharply. She knows 
nothing of Silva’s background. “If it is, I’ve never seen 
cancer like it before. I’m fairly sure it’s a simple fungal 
infection.” She hesitates. “I could send a tissue sam- 
ple down to the research station, if you’re worried.” 
Silva stares at her arm for a moment, sucking her 
upper lip. “Perhaps... Yes. Do.” She wonders 
whether she should mention what she saw that morn- 
ing standing in her room, but decides against it. It 
could have been an hallucination, another terrifying 
symptom of an unspecified decline bubbling through, 
but she doesn’t think it was. She doesn’t feel it was. 
But then, of course, she’d make herself think that. The 
alternative is too horrible. She doesn’t want to discuss 

O n the way back to the Retreat, partially com- 
forted by having been touched by medical 
hands, Silva carefully interrogates Luis about 
Canvey. Luis manoeuvres the four-wheel-drive vehi- 
cle with the panache of a rebellious teenager in his 
first car. Silva hangs on grimly to the roll bar. 

“Canvey had some pretty weird ideas about what 
lived in the jungle,” she says, as introduction. “Have 
you bothered to read any of his stuff while you’ve 
worked with it?” 

Luis curls his lip and shakes his head. “No. He was 
a strange man. But these genius types often are, aren’t 

Luis was educated in the city. Although born in a 
local village, his manners are very urbane, his speech 
barely accented. Now he works for Virichem, flitting 
between isolated research retreats. He has many skills 
in advanced technology, but is still essentially just a 

“Perhaps it drove Canvey mad, living here alone,” 
Silva says. 

“He wasn’t mad,” Luis answers shortly. “He just 
didn’t want to be an old man.” 

“Did you know him well?” 

“He was a very nice person.” 

Silva realizes this avenue of enquiry is going to be 
unproductive. “I wonder where he got these ideas 
about green-skinned people that live hidden in the 
forest. . .” There is no response. “Is that a well-known 

“This land is alive with legends,” Luis answers, 
with the pride of a man who has secrets the interloper 
can never penetrate. “There are whole cities buried 
beneath the vines. Deserted now, of course, but who 
knows what race once lived in them.” 

“Any of these ruins near here?” 

“No. Not that have been uncovered anyway.” 

“Do you believe the green-skinned people exist, 

He grins at her as he savagely changes gear. Silva’s 
head makes abrupt and painful contact with the roll 
bar. “Now what kind of question is that?” Luis says, 

12 interzone July 1993 

grinning, and shakes his head. 

She wonders what he’d say if she told him she 
thought she’d seen one of these people. She wants to 
believe that, because of his vague answers, Luis 
knows more than he lets on, but perhaps she is delud- 
ing herself, seeing evidence where there is none. 
Already her memory of the visitation is dimming. It’s 
hard to believe she didn’t dream it. 

I n the dawn, they come to her again - three of 
them this time. Silva slips from her bed and 
follows them out of the Retreat, acquiescing to, 
rather than obeying, their soft, insistent beckoning. 
Outside the air is radiant and the song of the guar- 
dabarrancas is a fountain of sound. Silva can see a gol- 
den walkway, a mist of gleaming rays, leading into the 
forest. She can walk upon it. It vanishes through the 
thick foliage, down the side of the ravine. I am dream- 
ing, Silva thinks, and keeps on walking. She passes 
the still form of a great sloth hanging from a low 
branch. She has never seen one this close before. Its 
fur is green with algae, and inhabited by silver moths. 
A ribbon of data, remembered from Canvey’s notes, 
which she read the day before, passes across her 
mind. “The majority of animals survive in this land- 
scape by specializing . . . sometimes they are invisible 
to the casual observer. . 

“I have the search image,” Silva murmurs. “Now I 
can see.” 

The people of the green lead her downwards, to the 
heart of the dead volcano. 

She stands upon a wide grey slab, gilded by lichens. 
A crowd of Canvey’s dream people sway around her 
like blades of grass or stripes of viridian water; insub- 
stantial. They reach out to touch her skin, nodding 
their small heads to one another, but she cannot feel 
their touch. One of them fingers her patch of scaly 
skin and recoils, as if burned. It flushes a deeper 
green, and communicates without speech in an agi- 
tated way to its companions. 

“They believe I am the future of humanity,” Silva 
thinks. “And I am not.” She feels they are pleased, 
even excited, by the phenomenon of her. How long 
have they been here? Are they recent blossomings of 
the humid, breathing green or the last remnants of an 
ancient breed? Silva does not know how to reach 
them. She feels too dazed to think rationally, too tired 
to lift an arm. 

A lcestis takes charge as soon as she arrives, 
striding into the Retreat, throwing down her 
h travelling bag, standing with hands on hips to 
address the two men, who look up at here with resent- 
ful suspicion. 

“It stinks in here!” she announces, by way of greet- 
ing. “Where’s Silva?” 

Jesus resumes his work with deliberate slowness, 
leaving Luis, who he knows can handle these city 
types, to answer the woman’s question. 

“She’s not here.” 

“Then where can I find her?” 

Luis shrugs. “She’s probably outside.” 

“You’re not being very helpful,” Alcestis growls. 

“I don’t know where Ms Merin is,” Luis responds 
politely. “She is under no obligation to report her 
movements to us. Can I be of assistance to you, Ms . . . ?” 

“I’m here to see Silva.” Alcestis turns a complete 
circle on the spot, appraising the Retreat. “This place 
is falling apart. It smells like old mushrooms. How 
could anyone live here voluntarily?” 

Luis is aware the question is rhetorical. “The job is 
nearly done,” he says. 

Alcestis raises her brows. “So quickly? When I 
spoke to Silva a week ago, she implied there was quite 
some ground to cover yet.” 

Luis clears his throat, and pointedly drops his eyes 
from Alcestis’ stare. “It appears Ms Merin has dis- 
carded a large amount of material she felt was super- 
fluous.” He shrugs. “There was little here worth sav- 
ing anyway.” 

Luis and Jesus do not know when Silva will be 
back. They say they haven’t seen much of her for the 
past few days. Alcestis makes direct enquiries about 
her friend’s health, but all the men will say is that 
Silva made two visits to the doctor downtrail. She 
does not, in their opinion, look ill. 

When Lai makes an appearance soon afterwards, 
Alcestis does not find it at all helpful. The biomech is 
intent only on telling her about the research it has 
been conducting. “The evolutionary thrust in this 
area is towards a vast variety of species, with a wide 
area of dispersal. There is no spring protein pulse in 
the neotropics, therefore. . .” 

“Excuse me,” Alcestis interrupts. “This is no doubt 
very interesting, but I’m more concerned about Silva. 
Where is she and how is she?” 

“Some varieties of species have yet to be discovered 
by us,” Lai finishes. “Silva will be back at sunfall. She 
has adopted this habit recently. As to her physical 
condition, I would say this locality causes her stress. 
She is not sleeping well.” 

A s it is early in the day, Alcestis decides to drive 
down to the village and speak to the doctor 
> there. Before making this visit, before badger- 
ing her casual lover Rod into letting her come over 
here with him, she had wheedled her way into getting 
her hands on the case notes of previous longevity 
experiment subjects. Deterioration of their condition 
had begun with skin cancer; rapid aging had fol- 
lowed, accompanied by dementia, and paranoid hal- 
lucination. To her mind, Silva is very much in danger 
of going the same way. Alcestis has remained alert to 
the nuances of Silva’s voice, even though she has 
refused to see her. The woman she spoke to recently 
was not the Silva she remembered. There was a 
vagueness about her, which Alcestis felt camouflaged 
a kind of panic. 

As she sends her vehicle screaming and bouncing 
down the outer skin of the volcano, she mutters to 
herself. “Would this be worth a few more years of 
youth? I don’t think so! Who are they kidding! Why 
don’t they give up!” 

At the surgery, she claims to be Silva Merin’s physi- 
cian and friend, and demands information. The small 
Spanish woman clearly objects to Alcestis’ hectoring 
manner, and makes soft remarks about confidentiality. 

“Don’t you know anything about Silva Merin?” 
Alcestis demands, or rather accuses, and when no 
answer is forthcoming, replies to her question herself. 
No! For your information, she is the product of gene- 
tic engineering. She is 37 years old.” 

interzone July 1993 13 

The doctor’s eyes widen in surprise. 

“Yes!” Alcestis says triumphantly. “And there is 
the possibility she is prone to sarcoma, oat-cell cancer 
in particular. I know she consulted you for a skin dis- 
order. Didn’t you bother to have samples analyzed?” 
“As a matter of fact, yes,” the woman answers 
stiffly. “They are currently being processed. I only 
took the sample a week ago.” 

Alcestis rolls her eyes almost gleefully. “You 
should have taken a sample when you first saw her! 
Was there evidence of any other disorders? What 
about her mental state?” 

“She seemed like a very self-possessed young 
woman. The sore she showed me did not resemble 
oat-cell. It was a fungal infection.” 

“I hope you’re right!” Alcestis snaps. “Let me know 
the minute you get those results. I’m staying up at 
Canvey’s Retreat.” 

A s soon as she walks into the Retreat, Alcestis 
knows the men have been talking about her. 
>. The thick silence contained by the rotting 
walls is gravid with recently-uttered criticism. Lai too 
has a furtive air, hovering in the background. 

“You!” Alcestis says, pointing at thebiomech. “Am 
I wrong, or is one of your functions to monitor the 
condition of your colleague in remote employment 

“You are not wrong,” Lai answers silkily, gliding 
forward. “Might I be of assistance?” 

“Have you monitored Silva recently?” 

“I monitor her constantly, as a background utility. ” 
“And you have computed no conclusions as to her 

“She is under stress. She worries.” 

“And the skin problem?” 

“She has a fungal infection.” 

Alcestis makes a growling noise to signify her 
exasperation. “You took samples?” 

“No. She has not asked me to.” 

Alcestis narrows her eyes and jerkily nods her 
head. “Well, you’re certainly fulfilling all your func- 
tions, aren’t you, lovey! Have you noticed no evi- 
dence of disorientation, absent-mindedness?” 

“Unfortunately, I’m not that familiar with Ms 
Merin’s personality to ascertain whether or not she is 
behaving abnormally.” The biomech sounds frosty. 
“Now, if you will excuse me. . .” It attempts to pass by 
the woman, who is blocking the door. 

“Fetch her,” Alcestis says firmly. “I need to see 
Silva now. Although none of you appear to have 
noticed, she needs attention. Urgently.” 

Lai answers politely. “I would comply with your 
request if I could, but regret I don’t know where Ms 
Merin is at this present time.” 

Another growl. “Don’t give me that! Of course you 
know where she is, or else you’re an inferior model in 
a Meg6 skin! What are you playing at?” 

The men have remained silent, almost as if they 
hope their lack of noise will make them invisible to 
this storming female. Now, Luis clears his throat and 
says, “She strays off the trail. She could be anywhere. 
Only the walkways are monitored.” 

“And you haven’t tried to stop her!” Alcestis 
explodes. “Doesn’t her behaviour strike you as irra- 
tional? She is not a person to take unnecessary risks.” 

14 interzonp July 1993 

Luis’ eyes drop back to his work. 

“This is outrageous!” Alcestis shouts. She flexes 
her shoulders. “Well if none of you will go out and 
bring Silva back, I will! Tell me where to start looking 
at least!” 

For a tense moment, there is only silence and then 
Jesus mumbles. “You could try the path down to the 
crater.” He cringes beneath Luis’ sudden warning 

“There is no path,” Luis says in a low voice. 

Jesus shrugs. “There is now. She’s made one.” He 
points through the window screen. “That way: 

S ilva is lying in a pool of green radiance, sur- 
rounded by the swaying, lustrous forms of the 
forest born. Their eyes glow fondly, mirroring 
the flashing feathers of the flock of quetzals that wheel 
about their heads. The rarest birds. Never more than 
one sighted at a time. A flock of the rarest birds. Silva 
sighs. She can feel her limbs melting into the green, 
into the moist earth. She is enveloped by the scent of 
unstoppable growth, enwombed by it. It all seems so 
clear to her now. 

Canvey knew. He knew what these people were. 
Now, she cannot believe the emaciated husk that was 
found lying on the bed in the Retreat was really him. 
She feels he is close to her, one of them. He is watch- 
ing her now, just a few feet away. She does not dispute 
his body died, but the spirit of him, the spirit... 
Another sigh escapes her like a breath of dawn mist. 
Canvey knew. He had the search image. He learned to 
see the immortals, to become part of the miracle that 
is unfurling here amid the green. And she is becoming 
part of it too. The forest spawned her; a miracle spore 
helped unravel the braids of her DNA and reformed 
them in a secret image. Sentience. Green sentience. 
And now she is home, unravelling once more, trans- 

The figures lean over her, spinning round in her 
sight, and ribbons of her essence spill out to be taken 
by their hands. They will dance these ribbons into a 
new shape. And she welcomes it. 

A lcestis can see at once that degeneration is 
taking place. She can see Silva lying on her 
k back in a clearing in the forest that looks as if 
it has been torn out by human hands. Alcestis has no 
doubt that, should she examine Silva’s hands, they 
will be cut and abraded by vines and tough stems. 
Insects will have burrowed into her unprotected skin, 
laid their eggs there, liquefied her flesh to feed. Utter- 
ing a cry of heartfelt anguish, Alcestis pushes her 
body frantically through the resistant green. In the 
emerald light of the forest, Silva’s damp skin looks 
greenish, terminally sick. There is hardly any flesh to 
her at all. She appears at once mummified and putres- 

“No, no, no . . .” Alcestis murmurs a prayer of denial 
as she stumbles over the short remaining distance that 
separates her from her friend. She falls to her knees 
and scoops Silva up in her arms, horror and an 
unfamiliar sense of helplessness bringing equally 
unfamiliar tears to her eyes. She hugs the flimsy body 
to her. “No, no, no ... ” But even as she tries to deny the 
terror of what is happening, and fights an inevitable, 

desperate grief, there is a sickening part of her that 
thinks, “She is not beautiful any more. She is not 
young.” The sly inner voice that utters these words is 
almost too soft to be heard. It can easily be silenced, or 

Suddenly, Silva twitches in Alcestis’ arms. “Sil! It’s 
me!” Alcestis croons. “I’m here. I’ll take you back. . . 
God, why didn’t any of those ass-holes do anything 
about this!” 

Silva moans and turns her head slowly from side to 
side. Then she opens her eyes, and Alcestis can see 
that they are filmed, unfocused, the eyes of a dead 
woman, or someone so old their sight is obscured by 
cataracts. She realizes then that taking Silva any- 
where would be futile. It is too late. The experiment, 
though undoubtedly useful, has failed. 

“Al,” Silva murmurs. “What are you doing?” 

“Doing? Doing? I’m gonna have Virichem by the 
balls, that’s what! That goddamned biomech must 
have known this was happening, must have been 
monitoring... God, it’s sick! They knew! They did 

“No,” Silva murmurs. “They don’t know... They 
don’t have...” She manages a weak smile, a grim 
parody that resembles the grin of a fleshless skull. 
“It’s all right, Al, don’t be scared. This is all part of 

“Oh, my baby!” Alcestis grips Silva’s body firmly, 
as if trying to keep her spirit earthbound. “I’m with 
you. Of course it’s all right.” 

“No.” Summoning what must be the dregs of her 
strength, Silva tries to raise herself. “Can’t you see? 
Can’t you see them?” 

“Who, honey?” 

“The forest-born. They’re all around us. Look, Al, 
look at them. This is why you don’t have to worry. 
They’re taking care of me, taking care of me during my 

Alcestis feels a finger of fear claw her spine. For a 
moment, she feels Silva is talking sense. But all she 
has to do is raise her head to see that they are alone in 
the forest. 

“There’s no one here,” she says. 

Silva frowns and then stretches her papery lips 
back into a ghastly smile. “Oh, of course. You don’t 
have the search image. But you will Al, if you stay 
here long enough. You will. And then we can be 
together always.” She sighs weakly and her head 
drops back against Alcestis’ arm. Her hair is coming 
out on the sleeve of Alcestis’ jacket. Her body is a 
decaying husk holding the soul of a vibrant girl. So 

“This is what life does to us,” Alcestis thinks. “This 
will come to me also, but in my case the stalking is 
slow and measured. It takes a little away, bit by bit, 
but at the end it will be the same.” 

“Oh God!” she says aloud, and throws back her 
head. It seems the forest, the interminable, wretched, 
burning green, is spinning round ber head. Birds 
shriek and the mocking howls of monkeys fill her 
head. It seems they are jeering at the puny women 
below them. Squatting there amid the ageless green, 
Alcestis is painfully aware of her own mortality. It is 
lying in her arms. Her worst fear made manifest. 
Decay. Age. The bitter memory of youth. Death. 

Silva’s voice is little more than a grating whisper. 

“Don’t worry,” she says, as her rebellious meat cor- 
rupts. “We can be together here always, face to face. 
Stay awhile. Rest awhile. We can be young together 

I n the Retreat, Jesus raises his head from his work. 
His eyes reflect the green-glowing light as the 
rain-clouds gather outside. “She is blessed!” he 
says, in his native tongue. “It doesn’t matter about 
that other woman.” 

Luis is systematically destroying data, unsure in 
which world his feet are rooted: the past, the present 
or the future. Grim-faced, he ignores his colleagues’ 
remarks. Later, he will get drunk. 

Lai mutters to itself, unheard. 

Somewhere, a long way away, the daughter of 
Longevity Program VII draws breath. Her name is 
Hope, the secret name of all of who came before her. 

Storm Constantine, who lives in Staffordshire, is 
author of the novels The Enchantments of Flesh and 
Spirit (1987), The Bewitchments of Love and Hate 
(1988), The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire (1989), 
The Monstrous Regiment (1990), Aleph (1991), Her- 
metech (1991), Burying the Shadow (1992) and Sign 
for the Sacred (1993). The last-named is reviewed by 
Paul McAuley in this issue of Interzone. 

Timons Esaias (see next story) is author, since 1989, 
of “over 100 stories, primarily in the St Louis Bugle, 
with national publications in the Funny Times and 
the Funny Business.” He appears to be new to the 
science-fiction field, however, and has stories forth- 
coming in various small-press magazines. He lives in 
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Subscribe to 
Interzone now 
- and be sure 
not to miss an 
issue. Details on 
page 56. 

intorzone July 1993 15 

Norbert and the System 

Timons Esaias 

H er skirt had a stylish cut; the boots accented 
the shapeliness of her legs; and her social 
beacon, cunningly mounted above her left 
ear, was flashing green. Norbert, instantly taken by 
her graceful yet careless walk, summoned his 
analysis program for her personality profile and a 
suitable introductory line. But while he waited for the 
printout to flash on his lens, she stepped up onto a 
passing trolleyshuttle — and the moment was lost. 

When the display arrived he angrily subaudibled to 
his Personal System, “A fine lot of good it does me 

“Do you want an identity search for her address and 
access code?” his PS inquired. 

“No, I do not. Clear.” His lens screen returned to the 
basic display. Still seething, he demanded, “How 
long did you take to process my request?” 

“Three seconds, request and display inclusive.” 

It won’t do, he thought. How could he ever get a girl 
with a time-lag like that? His shyness might be a fac- 
tor, but Personal Systems are supposed to make up for 

He needed to invest in some new equipment. 

W hile the kitchsys made his dinner, he 
sprawled in the bedchair and summoned 
the showroom program. A list of sixty-five 
Personal Systems in his price range crawled down his 
left lens, while his right displayed an index of nearly 
a thousand second-level options. 

“Civilization can be tedious at times,” he remarked. 
Judging his tone as dissatisfaction, the General Sys- 
tem brought up a salesperson. “Good day. Shopper 
Kamdar! How may we assist you?” 

Norbert explained his problem. 

“Ah, yes. We’ve had a lot of replacement orders 
from shoppers with the 1200 series. Time marches 
on! Ha, ha!” The salesperson simulation paused for a 
change of mood. “Frankly, an eligible bachelor like 
yourself shouldn’t have to ask his PS to assess a young 
lady. A modern System would have started on it the 
second your cortex responded to her positive fea- 
tures. You should have had the output before the hor- 
mones hit.” 

Letting that message sink in, the salesrepresenta- 
tion got down to cases. “How much surgical adjust- 
ment are you willing to tolerate?. . .Ah! Well, then, I 
would suggest the latest thing out of Gabon, the 15B 
Jizmet. It’s powerful, but economical, and most of the 
hardware is rib-mounted. It takes ten ribs on a male 
your size, but that means three pounds less on the 

16 intorzone July 1993 

head mounting you already have with the 1200! 
Could I consult your mounting diagram?. . .Yes, I see 
you already have four ribs converted, that’ll save on 
installation. . .” 

“Gabonese?” Norbert interrupted. “What’s their 

Instantly a series of charts and tables came up on 
his left lens. Then his right lens scrolled a list of sports 
personalities currently using Gabonese Systems: 
heavy on defensive backs and third basemen. Quick 
response time. 

“They’re fairly new in the market, but quite reli- 
able. They have to be to be licensed by our Adminis- 
tration. Do you have a particular concern?” The rep 
struck just the right note of reassurance and mild con- 

“Actually, I was just wondering how you turn it 
off.” Norbert chuckled awkwardly. Gome to think of 
it, how did you turn off the System he had? 

The sales-rep paused for some quick processing. 
“Off?” it asked with a tilt of its head. 

“Yeah, you know, if it malfunctioned. An over-ride 
command, or an off switch. Whatever.” Norbert tried 
to act in control, even though he knew that a sophisti- 
cated showroom program like this could detect his 
insecurity in a millisecond. That’s why he rarely 
shopped. The salesreps reminded him of ail his 
inadequacies, without even trying. 

“An off switch? Frankly, I’ve never heard of 
such...” There was clearly a reset. “I do see your 
point. Shopper Kamdar. One does not have an off 
switch, however, because the failure rate for PSs is 
vastly lower than that for people on their own, not 
that there are people without Systems any more!” A 
statistical comparison of deaths by malfunction as 
opposed to expected deaths without Personal Sys- 
tems flashed on his lens. “As you see, if one could 
shut the PS off it would put the owner at increased 
risk. It would be gross negligence on our part to allow 

“That makes sense,” Norbert admitted, getting out 
of his stupid question as gracefully as possible. 

N orbert dropped into the hospital that Satur- 
day to have his new PS installed. The waiting 
room bored him - everyone in it being loaded 
with anti-anxiety shots by their PSs - so he called up 
the latest flick. He hadn’t even seen the opening titles 
before his message light blinked: would he please go 
to Room 45921? 

Room 45921 was in the Gounselling Section, which 

seemed odd. He hadn’t needed counselling for the 
last PS. Odder still, the counsellor appeared in per- 
son, not just represented through the GS. A short, 
round European of some sort with an old-style half- 
helmet covering the back of his skull. What could a 
guy with an archaic set-up like that tell him about a 

“Shopper Kamdar, Norbert Kamdar! Sit down, sit 
down!” The man’s jovial manner surprised Norbert. 
Counsellors were usually so downbeat and con- 
cerned. “Just a few questions before we do the instal- 

“Is there a problem?” Norbert hated problems, and 
he already sensed his PS generating soothing currents 
in his shoulder muscles. 

“We don’t think so. We just want to make sure that 
you’re getting the right product.” 

“I don’t think I can afford to go up much further,” 
Norbert objected, calling up his spread-sheets. 

“I see that,” the counsellor agreed. He scanned 
something on his lens. “Actually, I’m looking into 
your co'ncern about System safety. This very original 
remark you made about an ‘off switch, ’ to be precise. ” 
Norbert tried, and failed, to supress a wince. “The 
showroom explained that to me. I don’t really know 
what made me think of that. Probably something 
about Africans and that dam that collapsed.” 

The counsellor paused for an update. “Ah, in 
Egypt. Yes. That was probably it.” 

“I really want this System,” Norbert pointed out. 
“Of course. Your PS doesn’t report any unusual 
nightmares or anxiety problems. Is that correct?” 
How did they get that data from the GS? It must be 
in the installation contract. Norbert agreed with the 
assessment. All he dreamed about were the beautiful, 
interesting women he never seemed to attract. 

The counsellor went on in the careful tone of a pre- 
pared speech, “Shopper Kamdar, as you know, your 
Personal System is carefully designed to protect you 
from health hazards both internal and external. Your 
heart, lungs, brain, liver and other organs are con- 
stantly monitored for any sign of trouble. Your 
enzymes and hormones are adjusted for maximum 
health and efficiency, and your caloric intake is 
restricted, if necessary, by the kitchsys interface to 
assure proper nutrition.” 

“Quite. Counsellor, I . . .” 

“But that’s just part of it. Your PS is constantly 
updated with weather, traffic, fire, and hazard condi- 
tions which could threaten your safety. You’ve heard 
of crime in the history films, haven’t you? Crime 
posed a significant threat to physical, financial and 
emotional well-being in former times, but our Per- 
sonal Systems and the General System just don’t 
allow it now. I’m sure you agree that this is all for the 

“Yes, I do.” 

“Then why would you want to turn a PS off? If you 
were injured, it couldn’t bring assistance. If people 
could turn their Systems off, we could have crime 
again! Do you want that?” The man leaned forward in 
an authoritative pose, which seemed too artificial. He 
really needed to update his software. 

“No. Of course not. What I want is my new System.” 
The Counsellor pointed his gnarled finger at Nor- 
bert. “But are you satisfied that the System is safe? 

We’re not going to have you bringing up this switch 
business after the installation, are we?” 

“No, Counsellor. I’m sorry I ever mentioned it.” 
“All right, then.” 

T he guys from work dropped by to admire his 
new set-up. They group-viewed the latest Vic- 
toria’s Secret ads, and compared baseball 
statistics software. Norbert found that he entertained 
more cleverly with the new System, and the gang 
stayed more than an hour before they excused them- 
selves. A record. And he earned a party invitation, his 
first in weeks. 

But one guy from Engineering, Howardi, stayed 
behind. Howardi designed bureaucracy networks, 
and knew people who ran things. Talking with him 
always reminded Norbert of the gangsters in the old- 
ies. He always had the inside dope on everything. 

“So, Norb, I got something about you on the GS the 
other day. Strictly upstairs stuff, but flagged to my 
attention. What’s this about over-riding your PS?” 
Howardi swirled his drink in the manner manage- 
ment Systems tended to suggest. 

Norbert’s System blocked any hesitation more 
smoothly than he’d ever experienced before. “Oh, 
that! It was a silly question I asked the showroom. I 
don’t follow hardware much, so a really dumb idea 
leaked out. My old PS just didn’t catch it.” Why 
would Howardi have been flagged for this? What had 
he stumbled into? 

“Yeah, I’ve had some funny ideas in my time,” 
Howardi admitted. “I’ve missed a warning message a 
time or two, as well. Embarrassing.” 

NOD SAGELY. Norbert nodded, though he 
couldn’t remember ignoring a warning message in his 
whole life. 

“ Y ou’re probably wondering what the fuss is about, 
right? I think you may have proposed the heresy of 
our time! And you thought you were just a regular 
guy! But seriously, Norb, the PS is the cornerstone of 
our material culture. When the archeology teams dig 
us up it’s going to be our defining element, the ‘PS 
People’ or something. So questioning the PS would be 
like an ancient Greek questioning pottery or 
amphorae or something.” He contemplated his drink 
before swallowing the last. 

Norbert’s new System flagged him; SEE PYTHA- 

“I sure didn’t mean anything by it, Howie.” Norbert 
said in bis best subdued voice. “They straightened me 
out at the hospital before it went in.” 

“Well, that’s good.” Howardi got up to go. “Don’t 
get all subversive on us, eh, Norb?” 

T he party wasn’t bad, and he even managed to 
get two dates in the weeks following his new 
installation. The first date ended early, 
because she suddenly remembered tbat her hair 
needed washing. 

The second girl was political. She wanted to spend 
the evening sitting on the benches in a public lounge 
area, reading political bulletin boards together. 

Norbert had never kept up with politics, and didn’t 
read the bulletin boards much. He had only posted an 
opinion once in his life, back when the Colts were try- 
ing to get the franchise law changed so they could get 

■nterzone July 1993 17 

out of Key West. An evening lounging around sharing 
reactions wasn’t what he had had in mind, hut if that’s 
what Vodkette wanted, that’s what he’d put up with. 

They picked the Tribune board, very mainstream, 
and filled with the usual drivel. Norbert kept his 
remarks fairly tame, so as not to offend, but he had his 
PS check the background of the bulletin board con- 
tributors. The readouts indicated that every political 
opinion originated in an expected financial benefit 
for the shopper who posted it. “I bet almost every 
opinion on this board is directly linked to the finan- 
cial gain of the shopper who posted it,” Norbert 
observed in a moment of wild abandon. 

“Really!” exclaimed a startled Vodkette. Norbert 
suddenly remembered that she had done studies in 
social theory, and that he had probably put his foot in 
it. He quickly flashed her the background data his PS 
had been finding on each posting. 

While she was looking it over, Norbert’s System sig- 
nalled a startling development: an arousal spike in 
the young lady, corresponding to his political obser- 
vation. What had he done? 

She smiled. “What made you check that out?” she 

“I dunno. It’s like at work, I guess. If you’re on the 
way up, you side with management. If you’re up for 
retraining, you hate the place. Opinions are all rather 
predictable.” His System red-flagged his comments: 

But her arousal level spiked again, and plateaued 
higher than Norbert had ever encountered on a date. 
He ran a quick diagnostic, just to be sure. 

She arched a sceptical eyebrow, which just showed 
above her lenses. “And I suppose you have some 
unpredictable opinions?” 

“Oh, I dunno. I dunno,” he stalled, desperately try- 
ing to subvocalize a search order for his wildest opin- 

His PS was way ahead of him. Before he could 
phrase the command, he was looking at a list of his 
five most original opinions, and their deviation value. 
Two of them were just errors of fact on his part (his old 
System hadn’t caught them in time), and two more 
varied less than .45 from the norm. But at the top of 
the list stood an idea with a colossal deviation. 

He swallowed. He took a chance. “I’ve often 
thought that we ought to be able to switch off our PSs. 
I’ve never heard anybody say that, and some people 
get on my case if I mention it.” 

She sat there stunned. His System told him that her 
System was going crazy refuting this remark. But her 
arousal level doubled. 

Her personal distance markers dropped to zero, and 
her health history became available to his System for 

Norbert never looked back. 

W hen Norbert returned to his rooms that 
night he couldn’t believe a number of 
things about the date. That she had liked 
him. That he had had a good time. That he had 
brought up the off-switch idea. That he had, against 
the advice of his System, allowed her to talk him into 
posting it for all to see. 

His PS seemed insistent that he should examine the 
replies already coming in, and that he should prepare 

18 inU^rir.oni* July 1993 

to deal with repercussions. It certainly was a fine new 
System, with much more foresight than the 1200; and 
it didn’t rely so much on that nagging voice in the ear. 

But Norbert didn’t want to think about politics and 
opinions tonight. He wanted to think about Vodkette, 
about her responses, about her shape, about the deli- 
cious way her rib-mount curved into the swell of her 
breast. And that is what he thought about until the 
System put him to sleep. 

He awoke to find himself a famous revolutionary. 

His System was so backlogged with urgent mes- 
sages that he had to cancel work for the day. Norbert 
had never cancelled work before, but his System 
revealed that he was fully within his rights to do so. 

There were thousands of responses to his political 
posting. Thousands. 16% were completely irrelevant; 
12% confused; 61% irately opposed; 2% concerned 
about his mental health. But 8.63% agreed. Hundreds 
of shoppers had taken time out to make a point of 
agreeing with Norbert. 

The feeling it gave him was so overwhelmingly 
wonderful that his PS had to intervene chemically. 

A fter breakfast and coffoid, he looked at the 
urgent message traffic. 

k The counsellor at the installation hospital 
wanted him to come in for an appointment. The pre- 
cinct bureaucrat urgently demanded a meeting. It 
looked ominous, and his bloodstream soon filled 
with anti-anxiety formulations. There were some 
dozen threats from angry fellow-shoppers. He had to 
have his PS explain some of the epithets. 

He had been in trouble with Authority before, but 
no one had ever bothered to send him hate messages. 

The most surprising thing was the long, long list of 
paying messages. Like other shoppers he made a few 
bucks each month scanning the advertisements 
offered to him, but it rarely seemed worth the money 
to sit through more than a few. Besides, the ads were 
so convincing that you usually bought the product, so 
what good was it? 

But these messages had respectable fees. A long Ifst 
of lawyers, publicists, writers and interviewers cla- 
mored for his business or co-operation. He spent most 
of the morning scanning their pitches, and in just 
three hours earned ten months’ salary. Norbert had 
the uneasy feeling that he might soon need the cash. 

After lunch, Norbert screwed up his courage and 
called the counsellor — the counsellor whom he had 
assured that the off switch would never be mentioned 
again. The counsellor’s phone-male smiled and redi- 
rected his call to another office. A very slick man- 
agementwoman greeted him with effusive warmth. 

“Shopper Kamdar! How good of you to return our 
message! Let me assure you that we will reimburse 
you for this call. Say five hundred dollars a minute?” 
Her pose suggested a willingness to pay more. 

“Ah, sure. But I was supposed to talk to Counsel- 
ling.” Norbert suspected a run-around of some kind. 

“Yes, well, we’re sorry about that. A lot has 
changed since we sent that message. You may find 
this hard to believe, but we’ve been swamped with 
calls from shoppers just dying to know what PS 
you’re currently using. You’ve probably experienced 
a touch of celebrity yourself since yesterday?” 

“Yes, er. Yes, I have.” What were they up to? 

“Well, as a political celehrity you’re entitled to 
realize the rewards of your position. We’d like to offer 
you an 8% commission on all the Jizmet 15s we sell in 
the next six months, if you’ll let us release your Sys- 
tem information to the public. We’d gladly raise that 
to 25% if you could find the time to tape an endorse- 

“Why that’d he just. . .Excuse me.” His PS urgently 
flashed: GET AN AGENT across both lenses, as well 
as a prioritized list of those whose messages had been 
received that morning. “Sorry, but all this is a little 
sudden,” he dutifully read from his optiprompter. 
“I’m sure something can be worked out. My lawyer 
will call to work out the details.” 

Just the briefest moue of disappointment was 
replaced by a broad smile of pleasure. She changed 
the subject. “We did notice one thing about your Sys- 
tem that needs correction, and we’ll gladly return half 
of the installation fee to cover your trouble. Ha, ha! 
The boys in the showroom sadly mis-read your 
character profile. I’m afraid. No one knew you were 
such an original, forceful young man. We’ve been hid- 
ing our light a bit, haven’t we?” 

“Well, perhaps a little ...” 

“So pardon us but we need to give you a more 
sophisticated repartee package, and damp down 
some of those annoying inhibition messages that less 
forthright individuals require. We can do that by 
remote, if you’ll okay it?” 

“Sure. I guess.” 

“Fine, then. And again our apologies.” She hesi- 
tated. “Oh! I nearly forgot. The factory is designing 
that off switch you wanted as an option. We’ll let you 
have an exclusive on that for sixty days, if you’ll allow 
us to use you to market it afterwards. Good shop- 

His PS-chosen lawyer was on his lens before her 
smile had even begun to fade out. 

W hile his new agent worked out his con- 
tracts, Norbert entered further uncharted 
territory. He informed his employer that he 
just wouldn’t be able to show up for the next two 
months, maybe longer. (To his surprise, they were 
understanding and willing to accommodate.) Then he 
began a careful screening of the, social messages on 
the queue. Dozens of women had sent paying offers of 
their company. Only a few of them were professional 
escorts, the majority were single women with a taste 
for adventure; and adventure, in this case, meant Nor- 

His PS took a decidedly worldly approach to the 
situation, which told Norbert that the new software 
had already been transferred from the company. Nor- 
bert felt enormous gratitude to them for this new life. 
He would gladly endorse the Jizmet line. It was a fine 

The interview programme would probably be Nor- 
bert’s finest hour, if he didn’t mess up. His PS, armed 
with a special celebrity-interview package, had been 
coaching him for days. They had practiced a dozen 
different gemphrases, the kind that get millions of 
replay requests, and all the royalties that go with it. 
Their chief problem had been justifying his icono- 

clastic action. Norbert’s vagueness on politics and 
philosophy kept showing through, and he wasn’t pig- 
headed enough to carry it off on emotional insistance 
alone. So they ended up with a consistently ambigu- 
ous set of prepared tactical responses, and a persis- 
tent uneasiness in the pit of Norbert’s soul. 

The presence of a live audience threw him. Forty 
people had paid large sums, of which he got 12%, to 
view the taping session in person. Norbert couldn’t 
remember ever having been in one place with that 
many people in his life. His PS confirmed it; he never 

The repetitious takes also bothered him. Most 
shoppers assumed that these programmes were taped 
in one seamless session. Actually, the interviewer 
asked the same questions over and over in different 
tones and moods, in order to elicit a variety of 
responses. Editing would patch them together later. 

“Is it true that you get the famous off-switch instal- 
led tomorrow?” — Yes . . . 

“What do you intend to do with your switch once 
you have it?” - 1 should think that was obvious . . . 

“How long do you intend to leave your PS off?” - I’ll 
have to see . . . 

“What about crime. Shopper? What’s to assure 
other shoppers that you won’t go on a, what did they 
call it, skree?” - Spree. Perhaps you should invest in 
a Jizmet yourself. (PAUSE FOR STUDIO LAUGHTER, 
IF ANY) No, the switch is being installed under the 
condition that the GS can over-ride if any shopper’s 
System detects me in criminal activity. I will have the 
power to try to commit a crime, just not the power to 

“Why did you want an off-switch in the first 
place?” - It was just an excruciatingly original idea I 

“Why do you think the shoppers of this world need 
these switches?” - I didn’t say that other shoppers 
need them. I did say that the option should be avail- 
able . . . 

“But really, what purpose does an off-switch serve? 
What good is a PS that’s not in use?” — The purpose of 
the off-switch is to turn the PS off. A shut-down PS 
serves no purpose but the purpose of waiting to serve. 
IT) . . . 

“But, Shopper Kamdar, I really don’t think you’ve 
answered the question. Why put such a dangerous 
power in the hands of mere mortals?” 

“For the tenth time ...” Norbert caught himself, and 
tried to read his prompt. But the answers didn’t mean 
anything to him, and he was angry and afraid. He 
ignored the prompt. “Because I’m a human and my PS 
is just a tool, and it’s not right. . .” and he slumped in 
his chair, suddenly unable to speak at all - which his 
PS had decided was the best thing for everybody. 

T he published version, which omitted the 
slumping at the end, soared up the charts. The 
commentator explained, “And so, like Lewis 
Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, Norbert Kamdar insists 
that it all comes down to ‘who is to be the master,’ and 
that’s all.” 

In the end Norbert never spent a dime on legal fees. 

intorzone July 1993 19 

The Shoppers’ Defence Fund gladly staved off all the 
challenges from the bureaucrats and Jizmet’s com- 
petitors. The courts managed to tie up installation of 
the switch for an entire month, but the publicity kept 
the interview selling and the Jizmet orders pouring in. 
By the day the switch was installed, Norbert was set 
up for life. 

The “switch” could be activated by entering a code 
on a keypad mounted on his belt, next to the battery 
charging plug, followed by a subvocal command. If 
the PS suspected a suicide attempt, it would 
immobilize him instead of shutting off, and call for 
help. Otherwise it would wait until he hit the button 
again to turn back on. 

Norbert carried it around for two days before he 
decided to give it a try. It seemed that every time he 
thought about it for very long his PS had to sedate 
him. He spent hours asleep, or in a torpor. What good 
is it if I can never use it, he thought. But finally, on the 
spur of the moment, he reached down and twisted the 
arming cover, flipped off the lid, tapped in the code, 
and then repeated the command phrase that appeared 
on his optiprompter. His lens went blank. After a few 
moments, even the cooling fan shut off. 

It was astonishingly quiet without the sound-track. 
He hadn’t realized that it was part of the PS, until 

Both lenses began to steam up. It took him a while 
to understand that he wasn’t going blind. But the light 
became otherworldly, and his room very fuzzy. He 
shouldn’t have done this before he’d become familiar 
with his new rooms. 

His head hurt! How can a head hurt on the inside? 
And he could hear his heart pounding. And his 
stomach felt very strange, and he began to taste some- 
thing unpleasant near his throat. . .he reached down 
and turned the PS back on. It quickly reset and rushed 
to his aid. 

But not in time to save the carpet. 

Norbert waited a day to make sure he’d fully reco- 
vered from the experiment, and then decided to take 
a walk through the corridors. Almost immediately he 
ran into Howardi, who shouted a hearty, “How’s 

“Always a sale. Yourself?” 

“Never better. Say, Norb, the guys at work keep ask- 
ing about you.” 

“Really?” Norbert found that idea odd. “Say hello 
for me.” 

“Of course. Hey, have you had any more weird 
ideas I can tell ’em about?” 

“No,” Norbert shook his head in self-deprecation. 
“I’m in enough trouble from just the one.” 

“You’re a wild man, Norbert. A real stitch.” 

Norbert watched Howardi continue down the hall 
and turn a corner. INSINCERE, said the Jizmet 15. 

H er smoky lenses spoke volumes, but her 
mouth said, “Have you used it?” 

“Oh, yeah.” 

“What’s it like?” 

“Like nothing I’ve ever done before. I don’t think 
most people would like it, though.” 

She reached across the table and stroked his arm. 
His twentieth date, in the twentieth restaurant, since 

the interview. It seemed almost routine, now. 

Her smoky lenses spoke volumes, but her mouth said, 
“How long do you leave it off?” 

“Long enough.” 

“Long enough for what?” 

“Long enough to show it who’s boss.” 

His hundredth conquest in about a hundred tries. It 
really was seeming rather routine, now. Norbert con- 
sidered cutting back to three a day. 

Her smoky lenses spoke volumes. He excused himself 
and went for a long walk. 

His PS guided him along routes he’d never taken, but 
he didn’t take much in. Despite the mood-levellers 
his System was pumping, the halls and galleries all 
looked the same. He thought back to Vodkette, who 
had helped start all this. His first conquest. What was 
she doing now? 

TERNS. There was a note reminding him that her Sys- 
tem was probably hopelessly incompatible with his 
Jizmet. She would bore him now, after all the sophis- 
ticated, upscale shoppers he’d been dating since. 

That realization made him a tiny bit sad, a tiny bit 

By mid-afternoon he found himself on the edge of 
the nature park. He decided to explore it. The trees 
and shrubs here were allowed to grow freely, unless 
they interfered with the pathways. Few shoppers 
came here and Norbert could see why. The confusion 
of shapes and densities seemed quite odd, and the 
dead leaves and branches accumulating on the 
ground was somewhat disturbing. Still, his software 
gave him permission to continue. 

At first he stayed on the concrete walkways, which 
were lined with stone lanterns and other pointless 
artefacts. The PS offered a series of lectures on their 
significance, but he declined. Impulsively he stepped 
onto an unpaved pathway, and during his first few 
steps switched off his System. 

Again the stunning silence in the absence of the 
sound-track, the pounding of his heart and the rising 
nausea. The grass under his feet felt very irregular, 
like a poorly designed pile carpet, and made walking 
unsteady. He stopped, and tried to control the panic 
that mounted in his mind. The lenses steamed up, 
first the right, then the left. He reached up to his face 
and, for the first time he could remember, unsnapped 
the lenspiece and flipped it up. 

His eyes, unused to the raw air, filled with tears. He 
could barely keep them open, the impulse to blink 
was so strong. 

The vertigo became overwhelming, and he fell to 
his hands and knees. The unfamiliar feel of grass and 
earth under his hands distracted him momentarily, 
and allowed him to fight off the nausea. This is how 
his ancestors had once lived, in the wild, under the 
trees, listening to the song-birds. How could they 
stand it, he wondered; how could they shop, feeling 
like this? 

He heard footsteps rapidly approaching. 

“Are you all right?” 

Norbert reached up unsteadily and restarted his 
PS, then flipped down the lenspiece. He gestured 

20 interxone July 1993 

unsteadily for patience, though he knew his inter- 
rogator’s System would be monitoring his rapid 
return to normal. Then he sensed two people squat- 
ting down beside him, and his PS said, “Park ran- 

“Shopper? Do you need assistance?” 

Norbert, his head clearing, sat back on his heels and 
read through the last of his tears, “Certainly not. But 
thank you. I was just having a rather. . . extraordinary 

The PS cleared him to stand, so he did, brushing 
himself off, and smiling his best enigmatic-#3 said, 
“Yes... that was quite extraordinary. Good day, 

As he walked back toward the concrete he heard 
one exclaim, “I tell you, it’s him!” 

“Imagine that. Right out here!” 

H owardi had left messages, as had the bureau- 
crat’s office. The Jizmet sales people left mes- 
sages, more and more urgent as the evening 
wore on. Norbert realized that the General System 
probably told them about the incident in the park. 
With the new switch going on sale in a few days, they 
might be panic-stricken. His PS urged him to return 
their calls. 

He was right. They wanted to know “if he had 
experienced any difficulties” with the new switch. 
“No,” he told them. “But it’s not for the timid.” 
They liked that. They quoted him in their ads. 

For a few days afterward Norbert stayed home, can- 
celling all his dates and postponing his investment 
counselling sessions. His Jizmet supported very con- 
servative financial software, and tended to veto all the 
schemes that were proposed. Besides, he didn’t really 
need more money. 

He wasn’t sure what he did need. He did some 
shopping, but the salesreps annoyed him. He took in 
some games, but his teams didn’t inspire him the way 
they once had. The flicks couldn’t compete with his 
own sex life of recent weeks. 

Norbert was lonely. 

He considered several new hobbies, but he knew 
that they weren’t the answer. He tried a couple of the 
banter-lines, but the interesting people on them were 
all computer-generated; the rest were shoppers like 
himself, who didn’t know what they were looking for. 
Finally, he decided to keep one of his dinner dates. 
Back to the sugar mines, he thought. 

A rtemia did not have her lenses set to “smoky,” 
nor did she ask about the switch before the 
k first course of paste was finished. She 
inquired about his interests and reading preferences, 
and seemed a bit unsure of herself when she disco- 
vered that he had none. 

Norbert stuck strictly to the suggested comments, 
feeling utterly lost with this woman. He had dated the 
educated classes before, but they never seemed to 
stray much from their software — the conversations 
being carefully scripted until simple curiosity inevit- 
ably led to the same questions, the same responses, 
and bed. 

Until now, Norbert had never quite understood 
how artificial those conversations had been. 

He recklessly strayed from the script. “Excuse me, 
could we just talk about you for a while?” 

She paused. “I suppose you want to know why I 
decided to ask for a date?” 

“Not really. I’d just like to know what you really . . . 
what you’re like.” IF YOU DON’T MIND. “If you don’t 

Artemia reviewed her likes and dislikes, hobbies 
and interests, for the most part reciting the pre-date 
resume her System had provided to his. Growing 
bored, he asked for elaboration, and she responded 
with complicated details. The Jizmet barraged him 
with definitions and explanations in both earspeak- 
ers, while filling both lenses with charts and graphs. 
He had to be prompted to realize that she had stopped 
talking some time before and expected a reply. 

“Pardon me?” he tried. 

“I said . . . well, never mind.” She frowned. “You’re 
not really very well educated, are you? I didn’t know 
quite what to expect, but you’re not really much like 
your pop-image, are you?” 

A long silence fell between them, and Norbert con- 
sidered the RUDENESS: OFF SCALE blinking in his 
left lens, and the series of pointed replies scrolling 
down his right. 

He took a deep breath and shut off his PS. Her Sys- 
tem must have informed her, because she immedi- 
ately sat quite straight. 

“No,” he said. “No, I’m not very well educated. I’m 
not very smart, either. I just asked a very silly question 
while I was shopping one day, and all this ...” He ges- 
tured vaguely, not even sure she was still there, 
beyond his foggy lenses. “All this... happened. I’m 
sorry.” He switched back on. 

She was still there. She slowly sat back in her chair, 
and her mouth dropped open. His prompt signalled 

“You shut it off,” she said. “You answered my ques- 
tion without a prompter.” 

He shrugged. 

She leaned forward, “I don’t think I’ve ever been 
given an unprompted answer to anything.” 


“Well, Shopper Kamdar,” she said, smiling in a 
way he would always remember, “You might just 
have possibilities . . . 


T he switch proved quite a popular option for 
several years before fading into disfavour and 
oblivion, though not until the royalties made a 
fortune for the newlyweds. Norbert never used his 
again, except for brief moments - just long enough to 
whisper in Artemia’s ear that he loved her. This often 
punctuated the lessons they took together in a most 
delightful, if not instructive, way. 

Artemia never did buy a switch for Jier own System. 
And though their friends and acquaintances often 
sported the device, the question of actually trying it 
never seemed to come up in conversation. “Someday 
we ought to ask Jizmet how often they were used,” she 
used to say - but it never seemed all that important. 

See note about the author on page 15. 

interzone July 1993 21 

Burning the Motherhood Statements 

Greg Egan interviewed by Jeremy Byrne 
and Jonathan Strahan 

I n 1983 Norstrilia Press published 
An Unusual Angle, the first novel 
by a very young writer called Greg 
Egan. The book made little impact and, 
despite the publication of several 
stories in Interzone and various 
Australian anthologies between 1983 
and 1989, Egan remained largely 
unfamiliar to readers. During 1990 a 
number of increasingly mature and 
well-written stories began to appear in 
Interzone and Asimov’s, helping to 
establish Egan’s reputation as a writer 
to watch. Egan’s second novel, 
Quarantine, was published to positive 
reviews last year and he is currently at 
work on a third. We are proud to pre- 
sent the first interview with this 
important new writer. 

Greg, little biographical detail about 
you is generally available, other than 
that you were born in Perth [Australia] 
in 1961 and worked in the Medical 
Physics Department of a Perth hospi- 
tal. What can you tell us about your 
history, particularly as it influenced 
your writing? 

From the age of about six I’d always 
imagined that I’d end up working as 
some kind of professional scientist, 
and I did do a BSc, majoring in 
mathematics, at the University of 
Western Australia. What side-tracked 
me wasn’t writing: it was amateur 
film-making. I became obsessed with 
that in my last year of high school. 
Don’t ask me why, but I decided to 
make a half-hour Super 8 film based on 
an absurdist play about international 
diplomacy, “Out of the Flying Pan” by 
British playwright David Gampton. I 
paid a thonsand dollars for the film 
rights - which I saved up by working 
on a milk truck for a couple of years. It 
was an insane waste of money: the film 
was technically abysmal even for 
Super 8, and in any case I had no pros- 
pect of ever earning a cent from it. I 
knew all that, but 1 went ahead and did 
it anyway. 

Then I made an hour-long 16 mm 
film — from my own screenplay, this 
time. It was a pretty heavy-handed 
satire about a referendum being held to 
decide whether or not the human race 
should deliberately annihilate itself. 
The cast consisted of long-suffering 
friends and family members, and I was 

22 intorzone July 1993 

the entire crew. We shot it without 
sound, and post-synched all the 
dialogue, which was a nightmare for 
the actors. Anyway, it cost so much 
that the only way to finish it was to 
stop studying after the BSc and work 
full-time, so I did that for a year. Then 
I used the film to apply to the Austra- 
lian Film and Television School in 
Sydney. I lasted about four weeks 
there before I realized how much I’d 
hate working in the film industry. I 
didn’t have the commitment to spend 
10 or 20 years slogging away in the 
hope of eventually directing feature 
films. So I quit. 

I spent six months unemployed — 
this was in 1983, at the tail end of the 
last recession — writing several bad 
novels, then finally got a job as a com- 
puter programmer with a medical 
research institute attached to a Sydney 
hospital. I stayed there for four-and-a- 
half years. All my formal education 
was in the physical sciences, so I was 
lucky to get a chance to hang around 
doctors and biochemists, picking 
things up by osmosis. 

I moved back to Perth at the end of 
1987, and since then I’ve been alternat- 
ing between stretches of full-time writ- 
ing, and programming jobs. I’ve been 
lucky; the same hospital has employed 
me twice so far on fixed-term con- 
tracts, which suits me perfectly. That 
way there’s no trauma about getting 
back to writing - no need to abruptly 
resign from a job which you promised 
at the interview to do for the next 30 
years. The contract runs out, and that’s 

The importance of film in your life is 
something I imagine few of your read- 
ers know about. Does it still interest 
you? Has your experience with it been 
an influence on your writing? 

Film-making has pretty much vanished 
from my thoughts; I see no prospect of 
having the time or money to return to it 
as a hobby. These days I’d probably get 
involved in computer animation and 
video - but if I got hooked on that I 
wouldn’t get any writing done, so I’m 
deliberately not even tinkering on my 
Amiga. Film-making is central to An 
Unsual Angle, and I wrote a story in 
1981 called “Tangled Up,” about a 
film-maker lost in an infinite regress 

of films-within-films. It hasn’t been a 
theme in any of my later work, though. 

In Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary in 
1989 you mentioned taking a year off 
to concentrate on your writing. This 
was obviously one of the longer 
"stretches of full-time writing.” Does 
this technique — commitment to your 
writing to the extent of putting "nor- 
mal work” aside - actually work? Did 
anything significant come out of it? 

I spent most of 1990 writing Quaran- 
tine, the first novel I’ve really been 
happy with. So yes, it did work. I’m in 
awe of anyone who can write novels 
while holding down a full-time job; I 
just don’t have the stamina. Also, I’m a 
pretty slow writer, both in terms of 
pages per hour-at-the-keyboard, and in 
terms of thinking-time to writing-time 
ratios. I can only really make progress 
on a novel once I’m thinking about it 
very nearly every waking minute. 

Who do you consider your literary 
influences? Reviewers have noted 
similarities to J.G. Ballard and Philip 
K. Dick. Are these valid? 

I read a lot of science fiction in my very 
early teens: Dick, Ballard, Delany, Bes- 
ter, Aldiss, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, 
Ellison, Le Guin. I read all these clas- 
sics without knowing they were clas- 
sics, and absorbed them all so 
thoroughly that a lot of the ideas they 
dealt with feel more like “general 
knowledge” to me than something I 
can trace to a particular source. 

My memories are clearer a bit later 
on; by the time I was about 15 1 was 
heavily into Kurt Vonnegut and Larry 
Niven. That might sound like an odd 
combination, but when Niven and/or 
Pournelle put that infamous scene 
with Vonnegut in Hell into Inferno, I 
just assumed they were sending up 
their arrogant narrator. For a while my 
two favourite books were probably 
Slaughterhouse Five and Protector. 
Niven really was the cutting edge of 
hard sf for several years. 

I drifted away from sf in my late 
teens and early 20s. I read a lot of 
David Ireland, Joseph Heller, Gunter 
Grass, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Wil- 
liam Gaddis, Thomas Pynchon. It 
wasn’t until Greg Bear’s Blood Music 
that sf really grabbed me again. 

I admire J.G. Ballard’s work enorm- 
ously, but I don’t think it’s influenced 
my writing. He has reality break down 
in a very distinctive, dream-like way; 
if it makes sense, it’s in terms of an 
invented dream-logic. Whereas I’m 
usually trying to tear away the surface 
of things while remaining as scrupul- 
ously rational and scientific as possi- 
ble, to the point of irritating some 
people. In Ballard’s work, abandoning 
reason leads to all kinds of strange 
insights and transformations. It’s 
beautiful, and mesmerizing. But I 
don’t believe the world actually works 
like that. 

Philip Dick made the whole nature- 
of-reality, nature-of-identity, nature- 
of-humanity suh-genre his own. Any- 
time anyone else goes near it, Dick’s 
usually been there first; the only mod- 
ern writer I know of who pre-dates him 
is Luigi Pirandello, who touched on 
some similar themes. So it’s impossi- 
ble for me to write about certain ideas 
without being aware that I’m on 
“Philip Dick territory”; that’s an occu- 
pational hazard of writing metaphysi- 
cal science fiction. I don’t apologize 
for trespassing, though — he was a 
giant, but 1 don’t think he exhausted 
the themes, and I doubt that anyone 
ever will. 

We should discuss the philosophical 
side of your writing a bit later, butfirst; 
inspiration. What inspires you to 
write? We’ve already covered film — 
does music, for instance, play a role? 
Are the influences for particular 
pieces strong and identifiable and can 
you recall any specifics? 

Most of my “inspiration” is very trans- 
parent. “The Cutie” was triggered by 
reading that childless adults in the US 
were buying themselves Cabbage 
Patch dolls - and that one couple had 
even had an exorcism performed on 
theirs. I’m still not sure if that was 
apocryphal or not. “The Moral Vir- 
ologist” was a fairly direct response to 
religious fundamentalists blathering 
on about AIDS being God’s instru- 
ment; I thought someone should point 
out that, even on their own terms, this 
was a blasphemous obscenity. I sup- 
pose that story was also guided by the 
example of “creation science”; believ- 
ing in doctrine is bad enough, but if 
you start trying to reason from it, you 
churn out an ever-growing list of 
absurdities which you also have to 
believe. “The Vat” was a cross between 
When Harry Met Sally and an essay in 
Nature by Erwin Chargaff, one of the 
pioneers of molecular biology, in 
which he warned of the possibility of a 
“molecular Auschwitz” where human 
embryos would be made as an indust- 
rial commodity, an intermediate step 
in the manufacture of certain enzymes 
and hormones. 

Music is just as important to me, on 

a personal level, as literature, but any 
influence it has on my writing is usu- 
ally pretty tangential. I did write a 
story called “Worthless” for In Dreams 
- a recent anthology on “the culture of 
the 7-inch single.” I’m a big fan of The 
Smiths, so the first idea that occurred 
to me when I heard about the anthol- 
ogy was to try to write a kind of sf equi- 
valent of a Smiths song - a story with 
the same ambivalent attitude to the 

whole idea of worthlessness, half- 
embracing it as a positive thing. That 
was a one-off, though. The only other 
story where music played a major role 
was “Beyond the Whistle Test,” in 
which scientists use neural maps to 
design advertising jingles which you 
literally can’t forget. “Closer” may or 
may not have been inspired by a line in 
my favourite Lloyd Cole song (“Four 
Flights Up” — the line is; “Must you tell 
me all your secrets when it’s hard 
enough to love you knowing nothing”). 
The connection only occurred to me 

after I’d written the story, though. 

With the central idea for Quaran- 
tine, I’d been aware for about 15 years 
that some physicists believed that only 
conscious observers “collapsed the 
wave” — that it was a biological or 
metaphysical property of being 
human. I was daydreaming about that 
when it finally occurred to me that tak- 
ing the idea seriously could lead to 
some very bizarre conclusions. I spent 

about a month reading about the quan- 
tum measurement problem, catching 
up with all the competing theories — 
which had to turn out to be wrong in 
the novel, so they’re barely mentioned. 
Roger Penrose’s quantum gravity 
theory is so beautiful that it deserves to 
be right . . . but the idea that the human 
brain alone might be responsible for 
the collapse made a much better story. 

Before discussing Quarantine - your 
latest novel — it might be interesting to 
discuss your/irsf- An Unusual Angle, 

inlor^one July 1993 23 

from 1 983 — which you mentioned ear- 
lier. What can you tell us about it and 
how do feel about it ten years on? 

For the benefit of those readers who 
have no idea what the book is about - 
most of them, I hope - An Unusual 
Angle is a kind of eccentric teenage 
loner story with surreal elements. The 
narrator literally has a movie camera 
inside his skull. I wrote it when I was 
16, although I revised it slightly just 
before it was published, six years later. 

It was very big-hearted of Norstrilia 
Press to publish it, but it didn’t do 
them, or me, much goctd. They blew 
their money. I laboured under the mis- 
taken impression that 1 could now 
write publishable fiction; it took me a 
while to realize that that simply wasn't 
true. Quarantine is the eighth novel 
I’ve written, and the first publishable 
one. That An Unusual Angle was pub- 
lished at all was really just a glitch. 

You say Quarantine is your eighth 
novel. An old letter we've just seen 
refers to The Flight Of Sirius as a novel 
forthcoming in 1985. What happened 
to it? 

Norstrilia Press were going to publish 
it, then changed their minds because it 
turned out that they wouldn’t get Liter- 
ature Board funding for it - it was hard 
sf, unlike An Unusual Angle, so they 
couldn’t pass it off as literature. 1 was 
very disappointed at the time, but I’m 
glad, now, that it turned out that way. 
It was a very badly written novel, and 
the central idea — using the gravita- 
tional attraction of collapsed objects to 
let spacecraft accelerate at thousands 
of gees without squashing the passen- 
gers - had already been used by Charles 
Sheffield, as I later discovered. 

As your first novel from a major pub- 
lisher, Quarantine is obviously an 
important milestone in your career. 
What can you tell us about how you 
wrote it? Did it develop out of your 
short work? 

Quarantine took me about twelve 
months to write, starting early in 1990. 
1 had a few breaks to vvrite short 
stories, but other than that it pretty 
much monopolized my life until it was 
finished. It’s not an expansion of a 
shorter work, although I did borrow 
ideas from some of my stories: the 
“priming” drugs used by cops in “The 
Caress” to prepare themselves for duty 
have been replaced by neural modifi- 
cations which do the same thing - and 
the neural modifications themselves 
are used in much the same fashion as 
the neural implants of “Axiomatic” 
and “Fidelity.” There are echoes of 
“The Infinite Assassin,” but that story 
wasn’t the seed for Quarantine; I actu- 
ally wrote it half-way through writing 
the novel, so the influence was the 

24 interzone July 1993 

other way round. 

Is Quarantine part of any self-consis- 
tent “universe” where you intend to 
set more stories? Do you see the 
development of such common settings 
as useful (given the commonality of 
“The Extra,” “Closer,” “Learning to Be 
Me” etc.)? 

I’m not attracted to common settings at 
all. The last thing I want to do is create 
a future history and tie my hands by 
having to conform to it. All that the 
three stories you mention really have 
in common are some items of technol- 

Obviously there’s a lot of work 
involved in writing a novel. You say 
you spent a month on the quantum 
measurement problem in Quarantine. 
How much research do you usually do 
for your fiction, be it short or novel- 

That varies enormously. Near-future 
biotechnology stories usually mean 
the most work for me, because they 
have to make a reasonable amount of 
sense in terms of current knowledge 
and current technology. Whereas with 
something like “Reification High- 
way,” full of speculative metaphysics 
and set thonsands of years in the 
future, there’s not much point compar- 
ing anything in the story to present- 
day scientific orthodoxy. 

In any case, I usually spend much 
longer just thinking things through 
than I spend on actual library research. 
I don’t mean plotting the story, which 
is yet another stage; I mean trying to 
map out all the implications of the 
central idea. In Quarantine there’s not 
a great deal that a physicist would call 
quantum mechanics; most of the book 
comes from taking a single premise 
about the measurement problem, and 
then exploring what it would mean if 
the results could manifest themselves 
on the level of everyday life. 

A number of critics — amongst them 
Adelaide academic Michael Tolley in 
Eidolon — have complained about the 
sections of Quarantine where you exp- 
lain quantum mechanical principles 
etc., claiming these passages disrupt 
the flow of the novel. Are the criti- 
cisms valid and do you think you 
could have done it any other way? 

I think the only changes I could have 
made would have been a matter of 
fine-tuning, rather than a completely 
different approach. I wanted the mid- 
dle of the novel to be a time when the 
narrator had a chance to learn about 
the physics and metaphysics of his 
situation - and to think through some 
of the consequences - before things 
became too frantic for deliberations 

like that to be at all plausible. I can see 
why some reviewers would have pre- 
ferred less theoretical discussion — but 
I wanted the events that followed to 
make sense to readers ranging from 
people who’d never even heard of 
Schrodinger’s Cat, through to people 
who were familiar with all the latest 
debates about quantum metaphysics. 
If I’d cut out too much explanatory 
material, some people might have 
been left floundering. 

I do wish I could have handled that 
section more smoothly - Michael Tol- 
ley rightly pointed out that some of the 
dialogue is pretty clumsy - but I still 
think that the basic structure was the 
right choice. 

Do you consider yourself primarily a 
novelist or a short story writer? Which 
length do you prefer and which do you 
feel you’re more successful with? 

I hope I’m in transition from being a 
short story writer to being a novelist as 
well, but with so few published novels 
I’m not really qualified to call myself a 
novelist yet. What I like most about 
short stories is that it’s possible to keep 
everything important about them in 
your head at the same time; human 
working memory - or mine, at least - 
just can’t do that with a novel. 

I’ve been writing about seven or 
eight short stories a year for the past 
few years, and I’m not going to be able 
to keep that up as well as writing 
novels, but I’ve probably reached the 
stage where I’d be at a loss for that 
many suitable ideas anyway. 

Do you see yourself as a “profes- 
sional” writer? Do you live exclusively 
from your writing? 

I’m writing full-time at present, and 
it’s been 18 months since I last did 
programming work. It’s too early to say 
I’ve quit my day job forever though; 
I’m just taking it as it comes. I’m hop- 
ing to stretch the money out for at least 
another year: long enough to write 
another novel after Permutation City, 
which is the book I’m working on at 

Although you’re primarily a writer of 
fiction, are you interested in other 
ways of expressing your ideas and 
opinions? If film-making is dead, does 
critical writing hold any attraction? 
What about essays or popular science 

Fanzine movie reviews are about my 
limit as far as “critical work” goes. As 
for popular science, these days you 
really need to be on the cutting edge of 
research - in person - to compete. 
Richard Dawkins, Roger Penrose, Paul 
Davies, Stephen Hawking. I’m just not 
in the running. 

Your fiction style has been called 
“ideas-based" and even “plot-bound," 
concentrating more on the story than 
on the characters or setting. Is this a 
deliberate choice? Is this the kind of 
fiction you personally prefer to read? 
Is it even fair comment? 

“Ideas-based” is a fair comment, and I 
certainly try to choose ideas that are 
strong enough to be worth writing a 
story around. I don’t deliberately neg- 
lect the characters, though, so if 
they’re badly drawn that’s a failure, 
not a choice. Settings I often do delib- 
erately neglect, at least in short stories; 
if the setting is a near-contemporary 
western city, it usually makes no dif- 
ference where it is, unless there’s some 
vital plot point hanging on the geog- 
raphy. I’d rather have the reader 
imagine his or her home town. I only 
go into settings in detail if they’re exo- 
tic, like the city in “Unstable Orbits in 
the Space of Lies.” 

I think my stories work best when 
there’s a powerful reason for the idea 
to be important to the central charac- 
ter. Most of my characters are a bit 
obsessive, and abitfucked-up-butl’d 
rather that than have them scrupul- 
ously hland and ordinary for the sake 
of it. In “Axiomatic” the whole notion 
of the physical basis of morality is cru- 
cial to the narrator’s problem. And in 
“The Safe-Deposit Box” and “The Infi- 
nite Assassin” the central idea of the 
story has completely shaped the cent- 
ral character’s life. You could hardly 
consider the character in “The Safe- 
Deposit Box” in isolation from the idea 
that he wakes up every morning in a 
different body. 

A complicating factor is that a lot of 
my work is aimed at undermining 
orthodox ideas about personal iden- 
tity, so it’s hardly the place you’d 
expect to find the usual 19th-century 
literary conventions about characteri- 
zation being honoured. Emma Bovary 
couldn’t pop out and buy the neural 
implant from “Fidelity.” 

None of that’s meant to be an excuse 
for poor writing - and I know I have a 
long way to go in a lot of areas. I’m sure 
I’ve had stories published which have 
been successful because the ideas 
were strong enough for readers to for- 
give a degree of clumsiness in the style 
and the characterization. Obviously, 
I’d rather have everything work 
together. I want to improve on those 
fronts — without sacrificing the ideas. 

As for my own preferences, I’d 
rather read Lucius Shepard than a typ- 
ical Analog story, any day. But it 
doesn’t have to be a stark choice like 
that; there are writers like Greg Bear, 
Michael Swanwick, Bruce Sterling, 
and others, who give you the best of 
both worlds. 

Are you interested in writing in areas 
other than “Hard sf”? 

I’ve had three horror stories published 
[“Mind Vampires,” “Scatter My 
Ashes” and “Neighbourhood Watch”], 
and I wrote a vampire novel called The 
Effects of Feeding back in 1 988, which 
wasn’t good enough to be published. I 
had a lot of trouble suspending disbe- 
lief for the duration of that novel; the 
horror ended up rationalized, although 
not in the Stableford or Simmons 
mould. I might write short horror 
again, if I get a strong enough idea. 

David Hartwell of The New York 
Review of Science Fiction wrote an 
editorial recently in which he laments 
the shift in the genre towards fantasy, 
horror and “mainstream influenced” 
writing and away from “hard sf.” He 
even speculates that “Science Fiction 
could end this decade." Science itself 
could be seen to be becoming “softer," 
particularly with regards to funda- 
mental physics and the ethical dilem- 
mas of advancing biotechnology. Has 
this influenced your work, and do you 
see a shift in the work of others? 

It’s now possible to write, 
with a fair degree of scien- 
tific rigour, about any- 
thing from the technology 
of rewiring your personal 
morality, to the possibility 
of manufacturing new uni- 
verses. Hard sf doesn’t 
mean ignoring the human 
consequences, or the 
ethics, of any of these 
things - it just means not 
ignoring the facts. 

Science fiction isn’t going to end this 
decade. Hundreds of people, at the 
very least, will keep on writing rela- 
tively hard sf, although I have no idea 
what will happen to its marketability. 

Science itself is becoming more 
relevant to almost every field of 
human activity. Developments like 
chaos theory and complexity theory 
make whole new classes of problems 
amenable to scientific treatment. 
Results in fundamental physics, like 
the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen correla- 
tion, make questions previously 
thought of as untestable and purely 
metaphysical accessible to experi- 
ments. Quantum cosmology impinges 
on supposedly religious issues — but 
that makes those issues scientific 
issues; it doesn’t transform the science 
into mysticism. Neurobiology is reach- 
ing the point where the neural systems 
responsible for all kinds of highly 
specific mental activities are being 
identified and understood. 

So I see science as becoming 

broader, not “softer” - and this 
broadening certainly influences my 
work, and the work of plenty of other 
writers. It’s now possible to write, with 
a fair degree of scientific rigour, about 
anything from the technology of rewir- 
ing your personal morality, to the pos- 
sibility of manufacturing new uni- 
verses. Hard sf doesn’t mean ignoring 
the human consequences, or the 
ethics, of any of these things - it just 
means not ignoring the facts. 

In his Eidolon review of Quarantine, 
Michael Tolley notes the apparent 
similarity between the philosophi- 
cally mechanistic views of your cent- 
ral protagonist Nick Stavrianos and 
your own. Certainly work like “The 
Vat" might predispose one to think 
he’s on the right track. Ethics, morality 
and philosophy in general seem such 
an important part of your writing; do 
you hold any particularly strong per- 
sonal views or convictions in that 
regard? If so, how have you come to 
them? Are there any grand themes 
you’d like to explore? 

“The Vat” was sledge-hammer irony, 
but I’ve had no feedback at all from 
readers, so I don’t know how people 
took it. I nearly had someone working 
in the loading bay where they packed 
the foetal by-products singing “De- 
humanize yourself! Dehumanize your- 
self!” . . . having misheard the words of 
the old Police song. Maybe I should 
have kept that in. But the point of the 
story was that it’s going to take a con- 
siderable effort to reconcile the 
insights of some areas of science with 
certain values we may want to pre- 
serve, and certain illusions we hold 
dear. I don’t believe six-day-old 
foetuses are sentient — but it would 
still be deeply corrupting to treat them 
like so much chemical feedstock. 

So - 1 don’t know if this counts as a 
“grand theme” or not, but one thing 
I’m trying to do is explore clashes like * 
that, between facts and values — with- \ 
out taking the easy way out and pre- 
tending that the facts can be ignored. I 
don’t want to write motherhood state- 
ments - feel-good stories that cave in at 
the end and do nothing but confirm 
everything you ever wanted to believe; 
I’ve done that in the past, and it’s 
insidious. Stories like that should be 
burned. If I’m certain of anything, it’s 
that understanding how the real world 
works - how human brains actually 
function, how morality and emotions 
and decisions actually arise - is essen- 
tial to any kind of ethical stance which 
will make sense in the long term. If that 
gets me branded “mechanistic,” so be it. 

I was raised as a Christian, and I still 
retain a lot of the values of Christian- 
ity. The trouble with basing values on 
religions, though, is that the premises 
of most of them are pure wishful think- 
ing; you either have to refuse to 

interzone July 1993 25 

scrutinize those premises — take them 
on faith, declare that they “transcend 
logic” — or reject them. As Paul Davies 
has said, most Christian theologians 
have retreated from all the things that 
their religion supposedly asserts; they 
take a much more “modern” view than 
the average believer. But by the time 
you’ve “modernized” something like 
Christianity — starting off with 
“Genesis was all just poetry” and end- 
ing up with “Well, of course there’s no 
such thing as a personal God” -there’s 
not much point pretending that there’s 
anything religious left. You might as 
well come clean and admit that you’re 
an atheist with certain values, which 
are historical, cultural, biological, and 
personal in origin, and have nothing to 
do with anything called God. 

I think the social conscience of the 
future lies with organizations of 
people who can agree on some basic 
values, getting together for a specific 
purpose — Amnesty International, for 
example - rather than groups with 
elaborate doctrines which attempt to 
embrace the whole of creation. I’m 
deeply suspicious of the trend towards 
“ethics centres” full of “professional 
ethicists”; most of these people are 
escaped clergymen and/or academic 

What is your most successful work - 
not in terms of financial reward, but 
from a “personal satisfaction” angle? 

“Learning to Be Me.” It was a very sim- 
ple story, but I think it did exactly 
what I’d intended it to do. 

Obviously you’re not alone in that 
opinion, given the reception the story 
has received (positive critical com- 
ment, Recommended Reading listings, 
reprintings etc.)- In fact, by any 
standards, you’ve been very success- 
ful generally over the past few years. 
How did you go about establishing 
yourself as a writer both here and 
internationally? For instance, did 
your success in the UK help penetra- 
tion into the US? What barriers to pub- 
lication did you encounter? Has being 
Australian helped or hindered your 
career thus far? 

How did I go about establishing 
myself? I never had any elaborate 
strategies or plans. I wrote a large 
amount of crap, and my writing 
improved, very slowly. Everything 
else has been a matter of luck. 

In terms of the particular history of 
when things started going right for me, 
I suppose there were three turning 
points. The first was selling “Mind 
Vampires” to Interzone in 1986. It was 
Bruce Gillespie who suggested that I 
send stories to Interzone, so I have him 
to thank for that. Horror turned out to 
be a detour, but Interzone turned out to 

26 interzone July 1993 

be crucial. I sent them more horror, 
and they rejected most of it, but they 
gave me some feedback and encour- 
agement. The second turning point 
was “Learning to Be Me,” which, as 
you’ve said, was well-received, and 
helped me raise my expectations of the 
standard I should be aiming for. The 
third big break was Quarantine. Both 
Peter Robinson, the agent who sold it 
for me, and Deborah Beale, who 
bought it for Legend and edited it, 
approached me initially because of 
stories I’d had published in Interzone, 

As for “penetrating” the US... sel- 
ling to Interzone definitely made me 
feel more confident about submitting 
to Asimov’s, but I don’t believe it was a 
factor in the sale itself. I think 
Asimov’s just accepted the first good 
story I sent them. 

The only “barrier to publication” 
was my own bad writing. It’s true that 
a lot of my very early work didn’t fit 
comfortably into any genre - but the 
reason most of it remains unpublished 
is that it was poorly written. Being 
Australian has never made a differ- 
ence, either way. 

It may seem provincial or parochial, 
but this country seems obsessed with 
its own national consciousness just at 
the moment. Do you feel that there is 
anything uniquely Australian about 
your writing, and is that important to 

No. I mean, everyone’s affected by the 
particular mix of cultures, and the par- 
ticular geography, of the place they 
were raised in, and live in, so of course 
I’d be a different person if I’d been born 
elsewhere. But a hundred other factors 
come first. I certainly don’t believe in 
such a thing as a “national identity”; 
the phrase is an oxymoron. Like most 
countries, Australia possesses thou- 
sands of subcultures, quite apart from 
any question of ethnicity. One of those 
subcultures consists of people who 
consider their nationality a vital part 
of their self-image; that’s their right, 
but they should stop deluding them- 
selves that everyone else thinks the 
same way. Nothing’s more ridiculous 
than talking about the “unique Austra- 
lian character” - unless it’s talking 
about the “mystical qualities of the 
Australian landscape.” 

What are your feelings on being pub- 
lished locally? Is it a useful testing 
ground, or a waste of time? 

In theory, I try to sell every story to 
Interzone or Asimov’s first, and if it’s 
rejected I try the small-press maga- 
zines, Eidolon and Aurealis included. 
In practice, I sent “The Extra” to Eido- 
lon first because it happened to be 
available when the magazine started 
up and was calling for submissions. 
And I sent “The Moat” straight to 

Aurealis because I knew there'd be 
people reading Aurealis who never 
read the overseas magazines. “The 
Moat,” by the way, I don’t see as “un- 
iquely Australian” - xenophobia is 
universal - but having set it in 
Australia, I thought I might as well try 
to get it read in Australia, 

Would a move overseas help your 
career? Would you do it if necessary? 

I don’t see any need to be physically 
closer to my publishers. I have a ter- 
rific agent in London; the whole point 
of agents is not having to be there your- 
self. If I was going to move to another 
country for the sake of my writing - in 
the hope of jolting my imagination - it 
wouldn’t be the UK or the US; both are 
far too familiar. At present, though, my 
prospects of having the time or money 
to travel anywhere, even for a couple 
of weeks, are nil. 

In your short -fiction career you’ve 
been published almost exclusively by 
David Pringle of Interzone and Gard- 
ner Dozois of Asimov’s (and The 
Year’s Best SFJ. How much have these 
editors shaped your writing? How 
important is the relationship between 
the writer and the editor? Is your lack 
of appearance in the other major ven- 
ues your choice? 

David Pringle did help steer me away 
from horror; when he bought “The 
Gutie” - my first sf story for Interzone 
— he made it clear that he thought I was 
heading in the right direction. These 
days, though, most of the feedback I get 
from him, and from Gardner Dozois, is 
about the quality of the stories. I think 
they ’re both more interested in making 
sure that things are well-written than 
in influencing people’s choice of 

I used to submit diligently to all the 
major magazines, but Interzone and 
Asimov’s kept accepting things, and 
everyone else kept turning them 
down, so it seemed like a waste of post- 
age to keep it up. I could eat for a year 
on a sale to Omni, though, so I still try 
them now and then. And Ellen Datlow 
writes the nicest rejections in the busi- 

Do you feel part of any concerted 
“movement” in the genre? You've 
been linked with Ian R. MacLeod by 
one commentator; is that a valid com- 
parison? Do you feel an affinity with 
any current writers? 

I don’t think you could find two writ- 
ers more different than Ian MacLeod 
and myself; all we have in common is 
that we’ve both been successful at 
about the same time, in the same 
magazines. I do feel a certain sense of 
generational solidarity with the other 
Interzone writers who’ve appeared in 

recent years. But I only know these 
people through their work, and their 
work certainly isn’t similar enough to 
constitute a “movement.” 

Do you correspond with other writers 
about the genre? Do you read the 
periodicals? Which ones in particular? 

I don’t really “correspond” with any 
writers; I’ve exchanged brief letters 
with some people on specific matters. 
1 read Locus, SF Chronicle, Australian 
Science Fiction Writers’ News, 
Thyme, .and the SFWA’s Bulletin and 
Forum. There’s valuable stuff buried 
in all of them. 

What is your opinion of awards? How 
important are Readers’ Polls, do you 
think? Do they advance an author’s 
career significantly? Do you care more 
about popular or critical acclaim? 

Any sign that there are people who like 
something I’ve written is welcome, 
whether it’s a good rating in a poll, or a 
good review. I try not to over-analyse 
anything encouraging, though; I just 
take it as good news and leave it at that. 
The whole practice of ranking works of 
fiction as if they were one-dimen- 
sional objects is pernicious, but it’s not 
going to go away, so there’s not much 
point getting worked up about it. 

The critical commentyou’ve received, 
while principally positive — and occa- 
sionally effusive - has been mixed. Do 
you pay attention? Do you read it at all? 

I read all the reviews I’m aware of. 
There may be people iron-willed 
enough to pick up a magazine and flip 
right past a review of their own work, 
but I’m certainly not one of them. 

Do I pay attention to criticism? Yes, 
if it rings true. I’ve had cases where the 
reviewer has understood exactly what 
I was trying to do, and pointed out 
where I’ve failed in a way that made 
perfect sense to me. When that hap- 
pens, it’s priceless. And short of that, 
almost any honest, considered opin- 
ion is useful to some extent. 

The worst kind of review is where 
the reviewer loathes the work, but then 
bends over backwards trying to sound 
“fair” and “balanced” - when the hon- 
est thing would have been to write a 
dismissive one-liner and to leave it at 
that. Dorothy Parker’s review of one of 

the Winnie the Pooh books was; “Con- 
stant weedah thwew up!” The New 
Yorker’s review of Dances With 
Wolves was: “They should have called 
him Plays With Camera.” In science 
fiction, if someone hates what you’ve 
done, you get 12 paragraphs of consti- 
pated invective, peppered with occa- 
sional compliments dredged up to 
make it clear how “balanced” the 
review is. 

Mystery writer Sue Grafton has said 
that she spends nine months writing a 
novel, two months promoting it and 
one month off. Could you see yourself 
working like that? How do you feel 
about the role of the writer as an enter- 
tainer, both in print and in person? 

If I can make a living as a writer in the 
long term, that will be nice, but I’m not 
going to slit my wrists in despair if I 
have to do other things to pay the bills. 
I’m not going to climb onto the book-a- 
year treadmill for the sake of financial 

“Entertainment” is very much a mat- 
ter of taste. I was bored witless by 95 
per cent of Total Recall, because the 
producers stuffed it full of car chases 
and disembowelments in the hope of 
keeping the audience “entertained.” 
The parts I found most enjoyable - the 
Philip Dick ontological riffs - were few 
and far between. So I certainly try to be 
entertaining in print, but I don’t feel 
obliged to do car chases. 

As for being entertaining in person. 
I’m not a public speaker. That’s not my 
role, and it’s not something I’d do well 
in any case. I had a job interview once 
where I said so little that the man who 
was conducting the interview — a very 
pompous professor of immunology — 
told me I was illiterate. (What he 
meant was inarticulate, of course, but 
it didn’t seem wise to point that out to 
him.) So the day it becomes obligatory 
for writers to go out and cultivate fan- 
dom, like politicians on the hustings, 
they’d better put it in the publishing 
contracts so I can refuse to sign them. 

That’s an understandable reaction; a 
piece of writing must surely succeed or 
fail on its own merits, regardless of the 
salesmanship of its author. But isn’t it 
in the best interests of the author to try 
to promote the work to the public, 
through interviews, signings, even 

Not to mention life-sized cardboard 
cut-outs of Madonna. I don’t know. 
Like I’ve said. I’d do it badly, and I also 
think the value of it is overrated. I’ve 
bought books by my own favourite 
authors for years without knowing the 
first thing about them, other than what 
they’ve written. It’s all down to 
reviews, past works, and word of 
mouth. I believe there’s a large compo- 
nent of the sf readership who don’t 
even know - let alone care - about all 
the bullshit that goes on. Of the people 
1 know who read science fiction, the 
majority have no connection what- 
soever to fandom, and they’re quite 
oblivious to whether or not Writer X 
has had his photo in Locus every 
month, and juggled armadillos while 
filk-singing at the latest Worldcon. 

Finally, what’s coming in the future 
from Greg Egan? Your Century/Legend 
deal included a collection and two 
novels, the first being Quarantine. 
How are the others coming? 

My next book is likely to be the third 
novel. Permutation City. I’m still 
working on it; the deadline is looming. 
It’s an expansion of a novelette called 
“Dust,” published in Asimov’s last 
year, which took the possibility of con- 
scious software for granted, and ended 
up concluding that the ordering of 
events in space and time is purely in 
the eye of the beholder. A simulation 
of a person in a virtual reality could be 
chopped up into a million pieces and 
run backwards on a million different 
computers scattered all over the planet 
- and the simulated person wouldn’t 
know the difference. Permutation City 
assumes that this is equally true for 
everyone, and pushes the idea to its 
logical conclusion. 

The short story collection will come 
after that, probably in 1994. The work- 
ing title of the collection is Unstable 

Well Greg, thank you for agreeing to be 
interviewed; I’m sure our readers will 
appreciate this glimpse of the man 
behind the name. We wish you the 
very best with your writing. 

The above interview first appeared in 
the Australian small-press magazine 
Eidolon, Summer 1993. We are grateful 
to its editors for permission to reprint it 

interzone July 1993 27 

The Four-Thousand-Year- 

Old Boy 

Lawrence Dyer 

UT/IT hen I was small,” Metheusus said, “in 
»/%/ the springtime 1 would lie beside the 
W W Euphrates and watch the mayflies ris- 
ing from the reed-beds.” His voice was hollow inside 
the glass walls of the giant terrarium. 

Through the glass Ana saw his spindly arms strug- 
gle briefly against their constraints. 

He became still. “Once 1 captured a mayfly. 1 
watched it and loved it all day, but by the evening it 
was dead.” 

“You didn’t feed it?” Ana said into the burnt-earth 
smell of the leather speak-tube. Her voice was carried 
along the tube into the terrarium. 

“Yes, I stole honey for it, but I didn’t know that 
mayflies can’t eat and that they are born, they mate 
and they die in a single day. I cried because my mayfly 
was lost forever.” His eyes closed, the translucent lids 
straining, as if he relived the memory. “And the next 
day I couldn’t bear to think that 1 had to go on without 
my beautiful mayfly. . .1 was only a child.” 

A curtain at the end of the tent chamber stirred. The 
girl employed to collect the money from Metheusus’ 
visitors appeared. Urgently she beckoned Ana to her. 
“He’s here, the agent of the Prince - in with your 
uncle now. I would’ve come sooner, but your uncle 
made me stay.” 

Both Ana and the girl knew that Metheusus, inside 
the giant terrarium, could not hear them. Ana went 
back to the speak-tube. “I have to go now,” she told 
the boy, concealing her agitation. 

S ilently but swiftly, she followed the girl along 
the connecting tent corridor which linked 
Metheusus’ chamber to her uncle’s. The girl 
stood aside and Ana stepped past her into the 
chamber where she knew the sale of the boy was being 
negotiated. The smell of spiced goat-meat met her as 
conversation faded; a chuckle was dying on her Uncle 
Valket’s lips like water disappearing into the sand of 
the desert. 

Three men sat cross-legged opposite Valket. One, 
who was dressed in voluminous white robes, had thin 
moustaches and swollen self-satisfied eyes which 
regarded Ana serenely. He held an advertising poster 
of Metheusus. It had a picture of the boy rising up 
hideously like a spectre, and words dripping-blood 
which screamed: Dare you visit the four-thousand- 
year-old boy? 

Ana was not sure which of the three strangers was 
the Prince’s agent and which his attendants, but she 
guessed that the agent was the one with the poster — 

the one who, with one waxed eyebrow hitched up, 
was now looking to her uncle for an explanation of 
her sudden appearance. 

Adjusting his threadbare embroidered waistcoat, 
Valket told him: “My dead brother’s daughter.” 

Ana wanted to demand that Valket should not even 
think of going ahead with the sale of Metheusus, but 
now that she was in the tent chamber she felt sud- 
denly uncertain. The moustached one’s confident 
perusal of her had been unsettling. Unsure what to do, 
she strode to the other side of the chamber and looked 
out through a gap where the worn, leather-thonged 
canvas barely closed the opening it was stretched 
across. The canvas flapped tautly now and again in 
the warm wind as Ana stared through the gap until 
the draught made her eyes water. 

Outside, on the slope which led down to the river, 
the bazaar was already crowded with people. And 
they were still coming: below the mountains Ana 
could see another caravan approaching along the way 
that the people in Chalapur called the Silk Road. Mil- 
ling about down in the bazaar, the people seemed like 
rats to Ana, rats with bulging eyes that feasted upon 
the sight of human deformity, feasted upon the jars of 
extraordinary foetuses pickled in alcohol, the fantas- 
tic animals brought from the other side of the world, 
the skeletons of giants and dwarfs. Such were the 
sideshow exhibits of the bazaar. 

Despite her disgust at the bazaar visitors. Ana felt a 
complicity in what they did. Before she had known 
Metheusus well she had not objected to his slavery, 
and now, though she had argued with Valket over it, 
she had left it too late to do anything about it - the 
guilt she felt about what would happen to her family 
without their main source of income had earlier stal- 
led her. 

S he felt hot breath on her neck and she caught a 
whiff of spice and musk. Half turning, she 
realized that the Prince’s agent was standing 
behind her. She stared through the gap in the tent, try- 
ing to ignore him. 

“So many people,” he said, observing the crowds. 
She had no intention of making conversation with 

Valket’s voice came from further back in the 
chamber. “Tomorrow Ahlek-Sur begins.” 

“Our ceremony for the Time of Enlightenment.” 
The agent’s voice came soft and close beside Ana’s 
gold-ringed ear. “And why does it trouble you that we 

28 inlorjjone July 1993 

should purchase the so-called four-thousand-year- 

She set her lips. 

“Sometimes they chat a bit,” Valket answered for 
her when she did not speak. 

Ana sprang around. “We are friends!” 

Valket did not meet her glare, but took a swallow 
from a leather bottle. “It’s nothing she’ll not get over,” 
he said at last, wiping a trickle of liquid from his chin. 

Still glaring at him. Ana said, “Metheusus has given 
his life to this family for two hundred and fifty years! 
How can you do this to him?” 

“It’s for the family, for you.” 

“With the property you will receive you will all 
have a more secure life,” the agent agreed, “not sub- 
ject to the vagaries of trade in the bazaar.” 

Ana strode up close to Valket. “And you will ignore 
my bundwat? It gives me the right to demand the 
boy’s release.” 

“It’s not meant for such things,” Valket told her, 
shifting uncomfortably on the floor mat. “Your father 
didn’t mean you to use the right of a gift for that.” 

“He granted it to me on his death bed so I can use it 
for what I want! Will you ignore my right?” 

Valket twisted his fleshy lips once or twice, then 
his eyes fell and he said nothing. 

Ana caught the eye of her cousin, Pavane, who with 
her mother was eating off a stub-legged table separate 
from the one before the men. With lips drawn back, 
Pavane nibbled at a steaming chunk of meat on the 
end of a wooden skewer. Her neat white teeth were 
decoratively capped with gold, and the ring piercing 
one nostril was gold too. As she bit and chewed, her 
eyes in their caves of dark make-up didn’t leave Ana. 
From the narrowing of those hard, cold eyes, it would 
have been obvious to anyone. Ana reflected, where 
Pavane’s loyalties lay. In the sound of her chewing 
Ana could almost hear the whispered word, “Dis- 

The Prince’s agent clapped his hands once in a bus- 
iness-like way as if he was used to having others pay 
attention to what he did. “Well I might have agreed 
the sale, but I haven’t personally seen the property ...” 
A worried frown appeared over Valket’s long fleshy 
face. “But your own emissary said 

“Oh don’t worry. I’m expressing a purely casual 
interest, let me assure you. The specimen has already 
been ascertained authentic. Pure curiosity. I’m 
afraid.” He beamed at Ana. 

“He’s no specimen,” she muttered through gritted 

V alket led the way to Metheusus’ chamber. The 
moustached agent followed, but then threw a 
hand up to his mouth and nose in disgust. One 
of his attendants passed him a perfumed kerchief. He 
held this over the lower part of his face before accom- 
panying Valket into the chamber. Furious at the way 
they were treating the boy, and at herself for not doing 
enough about it. Ana marched behind. 

Inside the chamber the agent stood before the boy’s 
huge, wheeled terrarium. Made of wood-framed glass 
panels, it looked like a waterless fish tank. The agent 
regarded it blankly for a moment then passed along 
the side of the terrarium, looking through the glass 
with a remote curiosity. He disappeared around the 

back. He was coming around the other side, a slight 
frown wrinkling his features, when he suddenly 
looked up and caught sight of the boy. His eyes flared 
in surprise and he took an involuntary step back- 

Ana smiled to herself. Even the tiniest confusion of 
the enemy was worth savouring. 

The agent gestured nervously at the fibrous mass 
which filled the bottom half of the terrarium. “But is 
all this. . . ?” 

Valket nodded, wringing his fleshy hands together. 

The agent peered closer at the fibrous mass, then up 
at Metheusus lying on top. Still holding the kerchief 
to his nose, the agent seemed to be searching for some- 
thing, as if he suspected a trick of some kind, but Ana 
knew there was no trick to discover. She remembered 
how she had doubted her own senses when she had 
first seen the boy. She had been nine years old; her 
father was still alive and had judged her of an age to 
meet the source of their income. 

She remembered how she had tried to hold her 
breath against the stench from the huge terrarium. 
She had stared wide-eyed and afraid through the glass 
and had, like the agent, seen at first only a mass of 
what appeared to be horsehair, caked with green 
towards the bottom — algae which also obscured the 
glass panes in places. Then she had picked out thin, 
almost-bony filaments twisting through the “horse- 
hair”: flat, convoluted ribbons of something unidenti- 
fiable. Higher up there were air pockets in the hair 
where these filaments broke free of their matrix, but 
still she could not see them for what they really were. 
Her father had drawn her attention to the boy himself. 
As now, he was up on the top of the hairy mass, half 
way to the roof of his terrarium and just below the 
opening of the chimney - which had the function of 
allowing fresh air to enter from the open sky. 

Submerged in the horsehair from the waist down, 
the boy had seemed a pathetic human form, a naked 
and sickly male in his mid-teens with a soft, hairless 
face and pale, translucent skin. His legs were not vis- 
ible, but his slender arms were weak and twisted. The 
horror of the realization which then followed had 
lived with Ana for weeks afterwards: she had sud- 
denly noticed that the hair which was his bed 
attached itself to his head. It was his hair. The flat 
bony filaments which spiralled around him finally 
joined onto the ends of his fingers . . . 

V alket uncoiled the leather speak-tube from the 
side of the cage. “You can talk to him, Excel- 

The agent looked even more confused. “He will 

“He’ll talk to you.” 

“He speaks? I thought he might be interpreted by a 
system of signs or such devices, but you say he 

Taking the end of the speak-tube uncertainly, the 
moustached man bent forward until his lips almost 
brushed the end of the tube. “CAN, YOU, HEAR, ME?” 
Like a lizard’s, the boy’s eyes flicked open. “Only 
too well,” came his high-pitched, hollow voice from 
inside the terrarium. He glanced at the agent’s atten- 
dants, at Valket, at Ana, then his eyes slid back to the 
agent. “Who are you?” 

intt>rzonr July 1993 29 

Valket stepped close to the dignitary and with a 
respectful nod took the speak-tube from him. “Just a 
visitor to see you,” he told the boy. 

“He’s no ordinary customer.” 

“Shouldn’t we tell him?” Ana whispered to Valket. 
Valket gave a shake of his head. 

Uncertain what to do, Ana decided to say nothing 
for the time being. 

During the brief exchange between Valket and the 
boy, the agent’s eyes had opened wide. “Remark- 
able,” he mnttered. 

He took the speak-tube from Valket. Although it 
prevented the access of infected air from outside the 
terrarium which might bring illness to the boy. Ana 
knew that the speak-^be was efficient as a sound car- 
rier. This time, having observed Valket’s use of it, the 
agent spoke more softly. “And how old are you?” 

The boy’s eyes closed in practised recollection. “I 
remember being an apprentice gardener in Akkad in 
the days of Sargon. I saw Nebuchadnezzar the First of 
Babylonia too, but my memories of such far off times 
are not good. There are gaps of hundreds of years 
which I have forgotten. More recent things, like being 
inside the library at Alexandria, I remember more 
clearly. I was in Rome in the Emperor Augustus’ time. 
That one’s as clear to me as yesterday — clearer!” 

The speak-tube had gone slack in the agent’s hands. 
“How long ago is the first. . . ?” 

“King Sargon — the one he said — was a bit more than 
four thousand years,” Valket explained, “so that’s 
why we call him that.” He drew up a chair for the dig- 

The agent ignored the chair and shook his head in 
disbelief. “And does he never come out of there?” 
“Not in two hundred and fifty years. We clean his 
dirt tray daily. . .” 

Glancing at Valket with a grimace of disgust, the 
agent strolled along the side of the cage, then back to 
the speak-tube. He grasped it firmly and asked the 
boy, “I hope that in such an extended life you have 
developed great skills in music and poetry?” He put 
his hand over the end of the tube and turned to Valket. 
“Apart from his valne as an oracle, such skills would 
entertain his Highness the Prince greatly.” 

A na winced when she heard these things. The 
question Metheusus had been asked was the 
k kind he disliked because it was always the 
awkward, persistent customers, the ones who seemed 
to regard his existence as a personal affront to them, 
who asked if he had accumulated amazing skills or 
abilities. And as for the idea that the boy would spend 
his time singing for the Prince. . . 

“If you knew you had only a year or two to live,” 
came Metheusus’ oft repeated reply from behind the 
glass, “then you would travel the world, read the 
finest books. You would learn music and poetry, you 
would live. If you knew that you would never die then 
you would attempt nothing, because eventually you 
would do these things anyway - statistically it must 
be so for an infinite existence.” He sighed heavily. 
“Eventually I will achieve everything there is to 
achieve within human powers, at least.” 

Valket chuckled nervously at this. 

“Then you’ve languished idly?” the agent said. “All 
your long life has been wasted, despite your inflated 

talk! You might have been greater than all men, but as 
it is you are much less.” He regarded the boy’s physi- 
cal plight with disgust. 

Metheusus’ eyes narrowed. “Mortals such as you 
are as transitory to me as fleas; I snap my fingers and 
you are gone!” His angry declaration was rendered 
ineffective by the fact that - attached to his self-grown 
bed by endless nails as his fingers were — he could 
never snap them. 

“Then why are you speaking to me at all?” 

From watery, sunken eyes clogged with yellow 
rheum, the boy regarded the agent through the algae- 
patched walls of his terrarium. “The opium they give 
me if I cooperate is a pleasure outside time, a respite 
from eternity, you might say, for eternity is a long time 
to have to be a sideshow freak.” 

“Then I feel sorry for you.” 

Ana turned to the agent wanting to object to the way 
the conversation had gone. 

“The way you see me now is but a daguerreotype 
view,” Metheusus told the agent before Ana could 
speak, “a mere captive instant in an endless life.” 

Tbe agent’s waxed eyebrows shot up. “I have seen a 
photographic daguerreotype. A remarkable thing. But 
I’m surprised you know of the process.” 

Metheusns looked him up and down, then said, “I 
learn much from my more educated visitors. But 
allow me to continue: no doubt a passing beetle 
observing you asleep in your bed would judge that 
you have always been like that and will be so until 
you die, which would no donbt seem an intolerable 
life to the beetle. Such a beetle you are to me.” 

“Excellent,” the agent muttered, smiling faintly at 

Metheusus sighed heavily, seemed disappointed 
he had not succeeded in insulting the agent. Finally 
he told him: “Life is only worth living if you know 
you are going to die. Life followed by life followed by 
life ceases to be life.” 

Ana had heard many variations of this assertion in 
the time she had known Metheusus, but one thing she 
knew which was rarely revealed to others was that the 
boy had once had a sister. There had been two of them 
blessed with immortality - as a result, Metheusus had 
told Ana, of what he called a “mutation.” In other 
people, inherited factors in the cells of their body 
triggered ageing — so he had explained it to her - but 
with he and his sister these factors were entirely 
absent, so that, just as the skin renews itself when it is 
cut, so their whole bodies were forever renewing 
themselves. However, Metheusus’ sister had died in 
an accident a thousand or so years before — something 
that was outside the bounds of bodily renewal. There 
was a man in Europe or America — Ana could not 
remember which Metheusus had said - who had 
worked out how mutations worked. The boy had 
heard about this man from his more educated visitors. 
Ana remembered that the man’s name was Darwin. 

She was relieved now when the agent clapped his 
hands and said, “I have seen enough.” He turned on 
his heel without another word and left the chamber. 

Sbe ran past the agent’s attendants to catch up with 
him as he passed through the further chamber where 
her aunt and cousin were still eating. 

“Despicable creature,” the agent was muttering 
when Ana caught him by the arm. 

30 intorzone July 1993 

He stopped and his eyes flared a warning. 

Ana dropped her hand from his arm. “I’m sorry, I 
wanted to ask ... Is there a chance I could go as well - 
to look after Metheusus in his new home?” 

“We have our own skivvies for that.” 


The agent brushed past her. “My attendants will 
return for the property the day after tomorrow,” he 
called to Valket. “We will deliver payment then. Have 
the creature’s tank ready to load onto a flat cart.” 
With a flourish of his cloak, the agent was gone. 
Tears pricking her eyes. Ana turned to Valket. 
“How could you?” 

“It’s for the sake of the family, daughter-of-my- 
brother.” He wrung his hands urgently. “It’s hard but 
it’s the best for all of us.” 

“Not for Metheusus,” Ana said. 

Despite her distress, however, she did nurture a 
germ of hope. The agent had said he would not be 
returning until the day after tomorrow. 

T he dawn made the insides of the tent-complex 
glow with amber light. As Ana entered Meth- 
eusus’ chamber she could hear the distant 
sounds of thousands of people in the foothills behind 
the bazaar chanting mantras. She went straight to the 
speak-tube. Metheusus was still asleep, but he stirred 
when she unhooked the tube. He looked up, sur- 

“Everyone’s at the festival,” she told him. “Now 
we’ve a chance to get you out of there.” 

He didn’t respond. 

“Don’t you understand?” 

“But it’s impossible . . . How?” 

Ana had to remind herself that he had been in the 
terrarium for two hundred and fifty years. “You want 
to be free, don’t you?” she asked, pulling a chair to the 
side of the terrarium. 

“I must have release from this existence.” 

She climbed up onto the chair and reached up 
towards the top of the glass wall. First she had to find 
a way inside. She pulled herself up onto the terrarium 
roof, then began to wrench at the base of the breathing 

“Can you do it?” Metheusus called. 

With a splintering sound the chimney broke free 
from its mount. With age it had corroded and crum- 

“I can do it.” Swinging the base of the chimney 
aside, she looked down at the boy through the round 
hole left by the chimney, then looked away guiltily. “I 
didn’t tell you before. . .You’re going to be sold.” 
Metheusus tilted his head back enough to look up at 
her with alarm. 

Ana could not meet his gaze. “The rich customer 
yesterday,” she explained, “he was the agent of a 
prince who’s bought you. They’re coming for you 

The boy received the news silently. 

Ana lowered her legs through the chimney hole, 
her long robe catching on the edges, then she dropped 
suddenly onto the bed of hair, right beside him. She 
had expected the hair to be spongy, but it was hard 
and compacted. Being close to the boy was like drink- 
ing the vapours of fresh manure inside a tropical 
greenhouse. It made her head swim. Although she 

had known Metheusus for so long, close up he looked 
different, as if the glass of his cage had distorted his 
image all those years. Close up he was even more 
fragile and pale, as if made of wax. 

She did not delay but turned to the locked door. She 
kicked at it several times with the flat of her foot, but 
slipped over on the moist surface of solid hair. She 
tried again and the door panes began to buckle out- 
wards, then the old, brittle wood splintered and she 
managed to force the door open. One of the glass 
panes split across into jagged shards. 

Reaching in her pocket, Ana brought out a big pair 
of scissors. She looked at the boy, held down as he 
was at the extremities by thick sweeps of hair and 
coiling nails. 

“Ready?” she asked. 

“Ready,” he said, and his voice sounded clear and 
sharp now that Ana was inside the terrarium. 

She began to hack at his finger nails, snapping and 
chopping through them as if they were bamboo. 
When his black nails were only inch-long stubs, she 
began to slash with the scissors into his thick greasy 
hair. She drew back in horror for a moment as hun- 
dreds of tiny creatures began to fly out and run across 
her hands, then she went back to her task with 
renewed vigour. 

His hair shorn to shoulder-length, she hooked her 
hands under his arms and tried to haul him free of the 
mass of hair in which his sore-covered legs were 
buried from the thighs down. This was more difficult, 
held in place as his feet were by the roots which were 
his own toe nails. She hacked and gouged at the sur- 
rounding mats of hairy matrix, but this took some 
time, in which the threat of discovery was never far 
from the front of her mind, for her family would have 
noticed — and would now be wondering why — she 
had left the festival. 

Eventually, tired and hot. Ana managed to drag 
Metheusus sufficiently free of the matted hair to begin 
to slash through his green, slimy toe-nails. She had 
become frantic by now, fearing discovery at any 
moment, but at last his self-grown bonds were all 
severed. She dragged him to the shattered door, 
climbed out first then dragged him out backwards 
past the broken glass and onto the dusty floor of the 

She was surprised how light he was. His skin came 
off in thin papery sheets on her hands and arms. 

“Do you think you can stand?” Ana knew that for 
months he had been doing muscle-tensioning exer- 
cises in an attempt to regrow his muscles and be ready 
for the release he had always trusted she would effect: 
I must have the strength I will need to do what I have 
to do, he had told her repeatedly. 

Now he didn’t reply to her question, but seemed 
disorientated by the experience of being outside the 
terrarium. After a moment he struggled to stand, and 
with Ana’s help managed to lean upright against the 
side of his prison. 

He was completely naked apart from some wires 
hooped around his hips, which Ana realized with a 
start were the inner structure of a pair of chambulots 
- the trouser-like garb of all males in the bazaar. The 
fabric of the chambulots must have rotted on his body 
long ago. 

Suddenly conscious of his nakedness. Ana took the 

inlorzone July 1993 31 

loose gown she had brought with her and draped it 
around him, pulling the strings tight. “I’m going to 
take you to Chalapur,” she whispered. “I have friends 
there who’ll help us.” 

The boy placed a warty hand on her shoulder and 
told her, “Thank you, Ana, my little mayfly.” 

Ana was briefly aware that he had paid her a com- 
pliment of some kind, but she had to concentrate on 
getting him out of there. Wrapping her arms firmly 
around him, she half-carried him across the chamber. 
She flung out a hand to scoop aside the curtain ahead 
of them. Valket was coming along the corridor 
towards them. 

“God preserve us ! ” he cried when he saw what was 

W ith a sinking feeling Ana watched the 
bazaar grow closer from her seat in the 
mule-drawn wagon. The wagon came to a 
halt on the road beside the stalls which laid their 
wares out on the edges of the hoof-beaten silk route. 
The dust cloud which had followed her transport 
caught up; pausing only to thank the wagon owner for 
the ride. Ana hurried out of the dusty air and into the 

When Valket had caught her trying to liberate 
Metheusus two days before, she had argued vehe- 
mently with her uncle. Finally, as Valket remained 
unwilling to allow Metheusus to leave with her. Ana 
had gone alone to Chalapur in an attempt to obtain 
help from the authorities to get the boy released, or at 
least to prevent his sale to the prince of what was a 
neighbouring state. Now, as she made her way from 
the road up through the quiet, half-empty bazaar, she 
wished desperately that she had thought of some- 
thing better, for her plan had failed. She had not 
received the support she had hoped for. And now she 
feared they would already have taken Metheusus. 

It was almost dusk. In the distance, hidden by the 
approaching night, came the singing of the people up 
in the hills, celebrating Ahlek-Sur. When she reached 
the tents of her family. Ana glanced up. Instantly she 
knew something had changed, though at first she 
could not say what. Then she realized with a start that 
the green flags with their elephant insignia, that had 
flown atop the tents for as long as she could 
remember, were missing. Fear lent her speed and she 
ran to the tents. Pavane was standing just outside, 
recklessly setting alight some rubbish too close to the 
flapping canvas. The blossoming orange flames were 
bright and made the dusk deeper. 

As Ana approached, Pavane looked up from her 
task and regarded her cousin coldly though the flicker 
of the flames was reflected in her eyes and her nose- 

“Pavane,” Ana called to her. 

“It’s all your fault, you are a traitor to this family.” 
Ana had expected such a response, but she couldn’t 
understand why the flags had gone from the tents. 
“What’s happened? Have they taken Metheusus?” 
Valket’s daughter did not answer but glared at the 
side of the tent as if her eyes could burn a hole in it. 
Finally she said, “Father has accepted your bund- 

Ana gasped. “But I don’t understand, I thought he 
would never 

“Then you were wrong. He says the family is the 
most important thing in his life and that’s why he 
must honour your bundwat, but he is weak, like you. 
The fool has destroyed the family.” 

“So the sale didn’t go through? Metheusus is free?” 
“They’re all down by the river,” Pavane told her 

She threw Ana a final accusatory look before disap- 
pearing into the tent. 

G asping for breath. Ana made her way down 
between the dark tents towards the river. 
Across the foothills which led up towards the 
mountains thousands of specks of light stood out in 
ranks: the torches of the festival-goers. 

Down at the river the sluggish water was brighter 
than the surrounding land, reflecting the sky. A 
breeze blew off it, wrinkling the surface and scatter- 
ing sparks from a bonfire into the air. Ana could smell 
the smoke from the fire before she got close. It didn’t 
smell right. It had a distinctive taint which she had 
experienced once before. 

She ran towards the fire. The silhouettes of two 
figures sitting beside it were thrown into and out of 
view as the flames twisted in the wind. She heard 
chanting coming from the figures - the chanting of 
prayers not festival mantras. She recognized the 
figures, her uncle and aunt; but where was Meth- 
eusus? She knew the smell from the fire: it was the 
same as the smell of her father’s funeral pyre. 

Choking on the smoke, tears leaking from her eyes, 
she threw herself down upon the seated figures. She 
found herself in Valket’s arms. “I’m sorry child,” he 
told her hoarsely as she struggled against him. 

“You killed Metheusus,” she screamed in her con- 

Her uncle gripped her arms very tightly. “No! He 
killed himself. I released him and he killed himself.” 
Valket burst into tears, hugging Ana to him. 

Like a child, she buried her head in his chest. “No, 
no . . .” 

Valket smoothed Ana’s hair away from her face. “I 
washed him myself. I tried to make up for all the 
years. . .” 

Through bleary eyes Ana watched as her aunt 
launched the little wooden raft, on which Metheusus ’ 
remains burned, out onto the river. 

“Why did he do it?” Valket muttered. “I offered him 
a partnership ...” 

Ana rubbed the tears and smoke from her eyes. “He 
called me his little mayfly,” she said. 

The raft was drifting slowly out into the stronger 
currents nearer the centre of the river, spiralling 
peacefully away from them. The flames had died 
down and all that Ana could see as the raft swept into 
the darkness of river and night was a clump of glow- 
ing embers. The embers became a speck of gold slip- 
ping downstream, a speck that flickered once, then 
merged forever into the peace of night. 

Lawrence Dyer lives in Buxton, Derbyshire, and has 
contributed short fiction to small-press magazines. 
The above is his first story to appear in Interzone. 

32 interzone July 1993 


I n the April issue of Interzone, Gollancz launched a new 
concept in introducing books to the public with a special 
sampler of book extracts. It proved to be a big success. A 
reader survey prompted a huge response and a vast 
majority felt the extracts would be helpful in choosing their 
reading material. Many also suggested improvements to the 
Preview which have been incorporated into this second issue; 
you’ll now find information about the book’s plot, the author, 
and the price and format of each book. We also received 
much useful feedback on all sorts of publishing issues which 
has been gratefully received by all the staff here at Gollancz. 
Thank you so much to those who completed the survey. 

Many of you seemed particularly interested in finding out 
more about the authors and this time we have selected three 
who are at interesting points in their careers. Two of them - 
Christopher Evans and Phillip Mann - are experienced writers 
and familiar to many SF and fantasy fans. Aztec Century, 
highlighted here, is Christopher Evans’ biggest book to date 
and certain to bring his talent to a very large audience. The 
piece we have included from Phillip Mann’s A Land Fit for 
Heroes will introduce thousands to the first volume in a major 
new trilogy. Paul Kearney is a newcomer in the fantasy genre 
and A Different Kingdom, excerpted here, follows his successful 
debut. The Way to Babylon. 

We hope you enjoy the second Preview and that you will 
continue to sent us your comments. (Promotions Department, 
Cassell, Villiers House, 41/47 Strand, London WC2N 5JE.) 
Yours sincerely. 

Richard Evans 
Publishing Director 

This issue of the 

Gollancz ST/Fan7ast P/cet/ew features the work of: 

O n a remote farm in Northern Ireland a young boy, Michael Fay, is being brought up by his grand- 
parents. One late smnmer’s day he finds that the countryside he thought he knew conceals something 
else - a different world . . . 

A diffeuent 
kincdom | 

E ven then Michael’s grandmother seemed old, 
older than his grandfather whom she would 
one day outlive. She was a big woman with 
large hands and a mop of white hair that escaped 
every clip and band she installed to imprison it. 
Inclined to stoutness, she called herself ‘big- 
boned’, and would glare round when she said it, 
as if daring anyone to contradict her. Her eyes 
were a bright blue, the whites of them slowly 
yellowing with the weight of years, but she kept 
her own chickens and milked her own goat and 
darned endless socks with complacent skill. She 
cooked huge meals effortlessly, bringing in 
vegetables from the garden with the mud clinging 
to them and bullying anyone who was near to 
carry in wood for the big range that shouted with 
heat at one end of the kitchen, taking up almost 
the entire wall. Its top plate was never cold and 
there was always a villainous pot of tea stewing 
that would be as dark as clay in the cup and which 
Michael’s grandfather downed daily by the gallon. 
Coffee was unheard of, and breakfasts were 
massive affairs of spitting bacon and fried eggs 
and soda bread. The men - family and hired 
workers - would congregate in the stone-Ilagged 
kitchen and eat mounds of steaming food before 
turning out to the fields and stables while mist 
was rising up out of the meadow bottoms and the 
last star was considering quitting the sky. 
There were cold mornings, stiff with winter and 
dark as pitch, when the men took swinging 
lanterns out with them, electricity not yet having 
been wired to the byre and the stables. And there 
were soft summer dawns when the sun would be a 
ball of molten fire inching its way up a flawless 
sky and pouring flaxen light over the waking land 
like a benison. 

And if Michael’s grandfather, six feet 

five inches of 
him, was lord 
of the farm and 
the fields, the 
labourers and 
the crops, then 
his grandmother was mistress of the house, 
provider of meals and stern guardian of manners. 
Hands were washed before meals with the strong 
carbolic soap whose reek would haunt Michael 
the whole of his life, and boots were scrubbed 
free of mud. The house and the farm seemed all 
of a bustle in those days, with people coming and 
going, boots clumping in the hall, his 
grandmother calling out in the yard for the men 
to come for their dinner - or if they were too far 
away then Michael would be sent scurrying out to 
the fields where they would be scattered at their 
jobs, sweat on their faces, scythes or halters or 
buckets or shovels or sacks or pitchforks in their 
hands. He remembered evenings like that, 
haymaking evenings, when there were clouds of 
midges floating like gauze in the air and a cow’s 
low would carry for miles in the stillness, and he 
would be plastered with hayseed and specked with 
liquid dung from his pelter through the meadows 
to fetch the others in. 

‘You’ve shit on your nose,’ he would be 
told calmly. ‘What have you been doing, 
snowballing with it? Go on with you. Get in and 
scrub, or your gran will have your hide.’ And 
he would not see the grin they threw at his 
running back. 

Michael Fay, with shit on his nose, had 
been running back like that one day in the 
middle of a waning summer when he tripped, and 
fell down, and slipped, and slid, and had his life 
picked up and thrown around and put down 

again in a different place. In another world. 

• • • 

He could smell the rich earth as he slipped along 
it, tumbling down a steep incline with his short 
limbs flailing. He smelled wild garlic and river 
mud, and when the world had stopped turning he 
found that he was on the slope leading to the 
stream at the foot of the bottom meadow, had 
cartwheeled down twenty feet of steep, hazel- 
covered bank and had left the sunset-lit evening 
behind, up in the meadow. Here it was gloomier, 
with the trees - alder and willow - edging close to 
the water like animals come to drink, and the 
twilight already deepening in their shadow. 

He sat up, dusting himself off with stubby 
hands. He could feel twigs lodged in his hair and 
beetling around inside his shirt, and his clothes 
were green and black with mud and mould. He 
grimaced, peering at his black palms then at the 
river hollow, loud with water noise, swamped with 
an early dusk. He trolled for minnow here often 
during the long afternoons when his grand- 
mother released him from the swarm of jobs she 
found for him. He knew this river - for to him it 
was a river, though barely ten feet wide and 
shallow enough to wake. If he followed it for a few 
hundred yards upstream he would come to the 
old bridge, where a seldom-used road crossed it 
and the heavy masonry was sunk in the water like 
the wall of a castle, with nothing but black 
darkness and skipping water rats under its arch. 

Michael shivered, and then froze like a 
startled rabbit. For there was something different 
about the river this evening, something strange. 
The trees seemed thicker, bigger. The willows 
seemed older, their hair dripping lower into the 
bickering water. And there were no longer any 
stumps on the slope he had just fallen down. 

He looked behind him. It was true. His 
grandfather had thinned out the hazel there so 
the sheep could make their way to the river to 
drink. Cattle would never have made it down the 
steep slope without slipping, but sheep could. 
There had been stumps there to trip the unwary, 
tangled with ivy and covered with moss, but not 
one had interrupted Michael’s downward slide, 
and he could see none now. Odd. 

But it flitted out of his mind as quickly as 
it had come. In the grown-up world there would 
be an explanation as there always was. Here it did 
not matter. He sat for a moment, listening to the 
river and half smiling to himself. Above him the 
evening star climbed unnoticed over the heads of 
the trees. All thought of dinner and his errands 
was leeched out of his head. He sat as if 

waiting for something. 

There was a movement in the trees on the 
other bank of the river. He sat still, though his 
heart began to beat an audible tattoo in his head. 

Branches swung back and forth; some- 
thing heavy was blundering through them. He 
stared, but could make out nothing in the fading 
light. His muscles began to tense under him and 
his hands gripped fistfuls of leaf mould, dirt 
grinding in under his nails. 

He heard a snatch of talk - a voice, and 
then another answering. He could not under- 
stand the words. They sounded deep, snarling, 
guttural; but rhythmic as a song. He got up on his 
haunches, ready for flight. 

Something burst into view in the brambles 
opposite, on the other side of the river. It was the 
grinning mask of a fox, the eyes alight and the 
teeth shining, but under it two more eyes glittered 
and there was a streak of teeth set in a wide grin. 
Shock took the air out of Michael’s lungs and he 
fell backwards, scrabbling through the twigs and 
leaves. There was a bark of something like 
laughter, and more movement along the 
riverbank; a dark flickering of shadow. Something 
splashed into the water, and he caught a glimpse 
of a prick-eared shape wading the stream upright. 
There was more talk, more of the song-like 
chanting and another rattle of hard laughter, like 
the sound of a woodpecker at work. 

‘God!’ he squealed, kicking soil and leaves 
into the air as, without thought, he propelled 
himself up the slope with his backside dragging in 
the earth. There were more shapes crowding the 
stream now, though none had yet reached his 
bank. They were man-like, crouched, wrapped in 
furs, their limbs gleaming with sweat or paint and 
the fox faces on their heads. Two of them bore a 
long pole on their shoulders, a dark shape 
swinging from it. Something like a hat rack was 
bound up to the pole. Antlers. And as the air 
moved out of the river, pushed by a stray breeze, 
he could smell them. They stank of urine, of 
rotten meat, of woodsmoke. Their dripping 
burden reeked of blood and offal. 

His nerve broke. He turned his back to 
the river with the air whooping in and out of his 
lungs and tears of terror flashing unnoticed on 
his face. His feet slipped in the muck and mould, 
his fingers gouging the solid for grip. He clawed 
his way up to where the trees thinned and the 
light grew, up to the meadow where he had left 
his world behind. And as he did, he stubbed his 
groping fingers agonizingly on a moss-covered 
tree stump and fell to one side, crying, waiting for 
the shapes in the river to pounce on him, for 

that evil stink to surround him. He shut his eyes. 

But nothing happened. 

He opened them a slit, saw nothing in the 
gloom, and then stared wide-eyed down the bank. 

There was nothing in the river. A bird 
sang evensong to itself and the brightness of the 
water was unbroken. The trees were quiet, 
undisturbed. He sniffed, stifling sobs, and heard 
across the fields the sounds of the men walking to 
the house for their dinner. He looked out and saw 
their shapes walking dark across the dimming 
fields, the sudden glow of a cigarette, like a tiny 
eye, winking at him. He crawled out of the well of 
shadow that was the river course and lay there on 
the edge of the meadow a moment, spent, his 
chest heaving in the slow air of the evening. A 
wood pigeon was talking softly to itself 
somewhere. One of the men laughed at some- 
thing - a wholesome, safe sound. He heard the 
metallic clink of a gate and knew they were 
entering the back yard, where the lights of the 
house would be yellow in the windows though it 

was not yet dark. He got up unsteadily, glancing 
behind him, and limped away wiping his eyes, 
blowing his nose on his sleeve. He could feel the 
mud caking on his cheeks, stiffening under his 
nails. His grandmother would certainly tan his 
hide for coming in like this. 

Paul Kearney lives 
in Northern Ireland. 

His first novel, 
The Way to Babylon, is 
now available in 
VGSF at £4.99. 

Hardback: £15.99, 
paperback: £8.99. 


voLi iscAprranffwiiD^vooD 


s the sound of bugles 
faded, the thousands of 
spectators quietened and 

I n a world where the Roman legions never left Britain, the Roman 
games have simvived in all their bloody ceremony. In a huge battle 
dome that dominates the capital city of York, artificial monsters with 
human pilots do battle in a vast man-made landscape . . . 




which was again brilliantly 
illuminated. All that could be seen of the 
spectators on the chalet high above was a row of 
binoculars resting on the balcony rail. No one 
knew how the contest would begin. was 
one of the main ingredients. 


It was the massed crowds on the terraces 
who first saw movement among the dark pine 
trees high on the mountain. Trees shook where 
there was no breeze. Artificial snow, dislodged, 
fell in a cascade. Something was moving: some 


giant beast. It was working its way down the 
mountainside using the pine trees for cover. It 
moved stealthily despite its bulk and only 
occasionally was a tree seen to jerk and then fall. 

Binoculars searched the depth of the 
hattlescape looking for the opponent. But nothing 

The creature in the pine trees reached the 
foothills where the pine woods ended, and a squat 
triangular lizard’s head poked out briefly from the 
undergrowth. On its horned crown it hore the 
device of the Ulysses family and this was greeted 
with a cheer from that family’s many supporters. 
The creature sniffed the air and then the entire 
beast advanced. 

A monster, fancifully modelled on 
prehistoric forms, emerged dragging its long tail 
which flexed back and forth, scything down small 
trees and bushes. The beast looked like a dragon 
and if plumes of smoke had belched from its 
nostrils then this would have seemed quite 
appropriate. Indeed, one of the horns on its head 
was equipped to shoot flame hut this was strictly 
prohibited in the Battle Dome. The creature had 
six legs which worked in pairs, and each leg had 
hlack talons of carbon steel which left imprints in 
the turf as it moved. The rear legs were mighty 
haunches. They were jointed and could move 
independently or together and could hurl the 
creature forwards at tremendous speed, at a leap if 
needs be. They could also crush an opponent, for 
individually they could he raised high like a 
hammer to come smashing down. The middle pair 
of legs was mainly for support. They had spiked 
wheels between the talons and could be raised 
telescopically, giving the creature a humped 
appearance. The spiked wheels were chain-driven 
and provided the dragon with a steady, sustained 
speed. Slung between the middle legs was a 
retractable wheel-and-track mechanism. This was 
particularly useful if the creature had to climb up a 
hill or needed to anchor itself in the ground to 
withstand a charge. The half-track also allowed the 
beast to inch forward if required, a movement far 
too subtle for the mighty drive-haunches or 
requiring too much traction for the middle legs. 
The front pair of legs was simply for support and 
guidance. They too were telescopic and could lift 
the front of the creature some thirty feet off the 
ground. When both the front and the middle legs 
were extended the dragon appeared to be begging. 
High on its front the creature carried a pair of 
claws. These were simply for fighting. The claws 
closed like knives folding together and the entire 
joint could swivel and extend from the hody of the 

In its appearance the dragon was quite 
beautiful and it was painted afresh after every 
fight. Scales of different sizes covered its entire 
hody. The colours of these ranged from 
aquamarine round the helly to burnished red at 
the spine. On the head and neck the scales were 
golden. Rising above the spine were pentagonal 
plates which looked like defensive armour but 
whose primary function was to serve as heat- 
exchange units. When the creature was at rest 
these units also served as steps. In movement the 
creature gave an awesome impression of fluid 
grace and great power while yet being some- 
what comic. 

Free from the restrictions of the wood the 
dragon trundled into open space and looked 
about. Then it raised its massive head and opened 
its jaws, displaying interlocking teeth, and roared. 
The meaning of the roar was unmistakable. It was a 
challenge. It said, ‘Come out and fight, whoever 
you are.’ Silence greeted this challenge. 

This was not normal. Usually hy now the 
shape of a battle was forming and a challenge was 
answered with a challenge. A hum of conversation 
broke out as people began to wonder if something 
had gone wrong. Then again, others reasoned, this 
was a grudge match to settle a long-standing 
argument between the Ulysses family and the 
Caesares, and in such cases there was considerable 
latitude in interpreting the rules. The result was 
that the contestants more or less played as they saw 
fit, grabbing advantage when it presented itself, 
and to hell with the code of conduct. While most 
battles ended with an act of surrender, more than 
once in recent history a battle had resulted in 
the death of the loser and the total dismem- 
berment of his vehicle. One never knew, battle- 
fever being unpredictable. It was widely speculated 
in the crowd (though only in whispers) that this 
contest would end in a death, for the Ulysses and 
the Caesares were old rivals and had many 
reasons to hate. 

So people muttered and waited and then 
the more observant began pointing towards the 
lake. A ripple line had appeared, forming a V on 
the lake’s surface. Whatever was below the surface 
was unmistakably driving for the lake’s edge 
where the trees hung out over the water and 
provided cover. 

The monster saw nothing of this. It 
stamped on the plain near the standing stones and 
again bellowed its challenge with back arched and 
mouth open wide. It smashed its front claws 
together and the air shimmered above its spines as 
it shed energy. For a few moments it paused with 
one rear leg raised, immobile as a statue, and 

the onlookers guessed that the Ulysses who was 
driving the beast was checking with battle 
headquarters to make sure that there had not 
been some foul-up in the organization and that a 
battle was really on. 

The pause was all the creature in the lake 
needed. It launched itself from the water using 
the dappled shade from the trees as camouflage 
and the standing stones for cover. It was low like a 
crab but ran like a spider. It had a horned head 
with a frill of bone to protect its spine. Tusks 
stood out from its lower jaw and with these it 
could lever and pitch. On giant arms in front it 
sported a pair of claws which were spiked and 

It came like a shadow over the grass and 
the Dragon with the burnished scales found itself 
attacked before it could move. The Crab sank its 
tusks near the place where the monster’s tail 
joined its body and it attempted to rip part of the 
scales free. But the Dragon read the plan and 
planted one of its giant hind feet squarely on one 
of the Crab’s pincers and crushed it with its 
weight. Sparks flew and the claw became 
detached. At this a murmur rose from the 

The giant Crab pulled back, leaving its 
claw behind, and sat on its rear legs with its spiny 
head advanced. It looked for advantage and what 
damage it might have caused. 

The Dragon was wounded, that was clear. 
It rounded to face the Crab but it dragged one of 
its rear legs slightly. A hole had been opened up 
in the dragon’s plating and several red scales now 
lay scattered and bent on the grass. Those 
spectators with binoculars could see one of the 
high-pressure air-pistons which powered the leg 
flailing about inside the dragon. Its couplings 
were broken but power was still being fed to it. 
The terrible clattering of the loose piston-arm 
could be heard by everyone. 

The Dragon roared and lowered its head. 
The tractor mechanism under its belly whirred 
into life and began to churn the earth, dragging 
the beast round. There came a wrenching of 
gears and the Dragon began to advance with 
jaws open. To the experts on the terraces this 
seemed like a stupid manoeuvre. The Dragon 
seemed to be making itself vulnerable. It seemed 
to be inviting attack. The giant Crab skittered 
round, suspicious, trying to approach the 
monster on its damaged flank, but the Dragon 
kept it at bay. 

Then with a suddenness which caught the 
onlookers by surprise, the Dragon heaved 
forward using its rear legs in a single leap. It 

took the spines of the Crab’s head in its mouth 
and with its front claws tried to shake it. For its 
part the Crab did not retreat but leaped forwards 
and its tusks opened a wound low on the 
monster’s throat. Black oil spurted. Pressing its 
advantage the giant Crab caught the Dragon 
round the throat and shoulders with its 
remaining claw and began to twist its neck. 
Methodically the Crab heaved part of its bulk up 
on to the Dragon’s back, locking its legs in the 
heat-exchange units and bending the plates back. 
It was seeking unbreakable leverage. And then, 
just when it looked as though the Dragon would 
be torn open in the throat, the Dragon heaved 
and rolled. This was a move rarely seen, a 
dangerous move, for the torque of neck and tail 
had left many such creatures with compound 
dislocations. Easy prey; easy meat. Defeated. 
Sometimes, too, the gimbals which held the giant 
flywheel that gave the Dragon its power fractured, 
sending the wheel bounding free to destroy 
everything within the body of the beast. 

But this roll was carefully executed. Every 
part of the beast joined in the convulsion so that a 
mighty peristalsis took place, and the Dragon 
rolled over the Crab and squashed it. The 
cracking of the carapace could be heard by 
everyone. The legs on one side crumpled and 
hydraulic pistons broke through the skin and 
began pouring oil. The remaining claw opened 
and closed jerkily. To add final insult to injury, 
the Dragon shook itself free and then turned its 
back on the Crab, raised its tail and brought it 
smashing down like the blunt back of an axe on 
an enamel garden bucket. The Crab ruptured in 
every seam. The Dragon limped away. The battle 
was over. It had lasted just seven minutes. 

Phillip Mann was 
born in Yorkshire but 
now lives in New 
Zealand. His novels 
include The Eye of the 
Queen, Master of 
Paxwax (now available 
in paperback in VGSF 
at £4.99), The Fall of 
the Families, Pioneers 
and Wulfsyarn. 

Hardback £15.99. 

I t is the late twentieth century and Britain has been invaded by the 
forces of the Aztec Empire, whose armies have swept the globe in the 
five hundred years since Cortez turned traitor. Two princesses of the 
British royal family have taken refuge in a remote Welsh valley and are 
awaiting rescue by a Russian airship . . . 



I t was Alex who shook me awake. Groggy, I sat 
up and saw the first blue hints of dawn through 
the window. 

Ts it here?’ 1 asked. 

‘Not yet. But I’d be grateful if you took 
over the watch.’ 

‘Have you been up all night?’ 

He shrugged. ‘I thought I’d let everyone 
get plenty of rest. It could be a long day today’ 
‘Into bed immediately’ I ordered him. 

I dressed and went down to the balcony. 
The dawn chorus had started, though the valley 
still lay in darkness. Everyone else apart from 
Victoria was asleep on sofas and armchairs in the 
drawing room beyond. 

Perhaps the Russian craft had been 
delayed or even shot down. According to Alex, it 
would most likely follow a northerly route to 
avoid Aztec airspace in mainland Europe and 
England, coming down over the Irish Sea and 
approaching us from the west. I began to fear that 
it had never set out in the first place. 

I went to the kitchen and put a pot of 
water on the paraffin stove. The smell of the 
stove made me feel nauseous, so I returned to 
the balcony. 

And then I saw it. 

Far south, down the twilit valley, framed by 
the rounded black hills, was a point of light. 

My immediate instinct was to rouse the 
others and give them the good news that at 

R Y 

last the Russians were coming. 
But as I stared, the point of 
light resolved into three - one 
larger, the other two smaller. 

All were golden. 

For long moments I did not move. I 
couldn’t take my eyes off their firefly glow, as gold 
as the sun. 

‘Enemy aircraft!’ I shouted. ‘They’re 

In the drawing room, everyone awoke. 
There was a brief befuddled panic before Alex 
appeared and confirmed that they were indeed 
Aztec craft. He began marshalling us. 

I rushed off to wake Victoria. She was 
still soundly asleep, naked under the sheets. I 
shook her awake. Ignoring her protests, I 
scrambled around the room, finding jeans, a 
blouse, a sweater. 

Alex hastened into the room Just as 
Victoria was struggling into her boots. He was 
carrying his attache 

‘Quickly!’ he told us. 

'We hurried downstairs and went out 
through a side door, crossing a potato bed before 
slipping through a yew hedge. A stone stairway 
led down and away from the house. We skirted 
the pine plantation, heading across the lower 
slopes in the general direction of the colliery 

‘WTiere are the others?’ I asked. 

Alex’s reply was drowned in a searing 
noise which was followed by an eruption of flame 
on the lower terraces of the garden. We were 
bathed in golden light as our attackers completed 
their first pass. 

The two smaller craft were fast-flying. 

manoeuvrable interceptors with slender fuselages 
and sickle wings. Their larger companion had a 
pointed nose and high swept-back wings which 
made it resemble an enormous golden bird of 
prey: it was a gunship transporter, its hold 
typically crammed with troops who would spew 
out to occupy positions softened up by the craft’s 
firepower. All three shone brilliant gold in the 
gathering dawn. 

Alex crouched and opened his brief- 
case. He took out the computer disk and thrust 
it at me. 

I stood frozen, staring at it. 

‘Take it!’ he insisted. ‘I’m going back for 
the others.’ 

He closed the briefcase and flung it away 
from him, sending it spinning through the air. 

‘Alex — ’ 

‘The codeword’s axolotl.’ He repeated the 
word then forced a grin. ‘Don’t worry. I’ll be 
back. Head for the bath-house. I’ll find you there 
as soon as I can. Now get clear of here!’ 

Banking sharply, and utterly silently, the 
interceptors came in again. Plumes of liquid fire 
spurted from their noses, plummeting down to 
burst on the ground, setting clumps of gorse 
ablaze and throwing the skeletal framework of the 
tower into stark relief. Alex was already blotted 
from view by the smoke. 

I slipped the disk into a pocket of my 
jacket. Keeping Victoria close to me, I led her 
down the mountain path towards the bath-house, 
a squat building which stood on the lower flank of 
the valley. The air was thick with smoke and the 
petroleum smell of xiuhatl liquid incendiary. 

We skirted the colliery, and I kept 
glancing back with each explosion. The gunship 
hovered at a distance while the interceptors swept 
in, spreading fire and mayhem. The house was 
still intact, and now the small craft paused in their 
attacks while the gunship descended until it hung 
no more than a hundred yards above the house. 

White light from the belly of the ship 
bathed the entire area. 

‘You will surrender immediately. No 
further attacks will be made. You will surrender 

The amplified message came from the 
gunship. It was repeated. I pulled Victoria down 
behind a low wall, searching the hillsides for some 
sign of Alex and the others. 

I heard the sound of rifle-fire and I knew 
it came from the house, a defiant and futile 
attempt to resist the attackers. A gust of wind 
cloaked us briefly in gorse smoke. There was a 
huge pneumatic thump, and the house 

erupted in a cataclysm of fire. 

The blast of heat from the explosion 
seared our faces, and I pushed Victoria down. 
When I finally looked up again, fleeing sheep 
shone like phantoms in the fierce light of the 
inferno. The house was gone. 

My eyes were blinded with heat and tears. 
Then my heart leapt into my throat as someone 
grabbed my wrist. 

It was Be van. 

‘Be quick, now,’ he said. ‘This way’ 

Half pulled, half following, we were led up 
an incline, scrambling over slag and discarded 
machine parts, slithering up treacherous shaly 
slopes, the ground sliding under our feet. Victoria 
was gasping and sobbing the word ‘Please ... 
Please ... ’ over and over again, though whether 
she wanted to stop or was desperate to find safety, 
I could not say. 

Then in front of us, in an overgrown wall 
behind a tangle of hawthorn, a cast-iron pipe 
Jutted out. About three feet wide, it was coated 
with moss and algae, a dribble of rusty water 
trickling from it. 

‘Right,’ said Bevan. ‘In you go, then.’ 

Victoria’s hand tightened in mine. All 
three of us were panting, and I felt as if I might be 
sick at any moment. The pipe stood at chest 
height above a stagnant rushy puddle. Its interior 
was utterly dark. 

‘We can’t go in there,’ I heard myself say. 

‘Says who?’ Bevan replied. ‘Want them to 
have you, do you?’ 

‘The others,’ I murmured. ‘Alex . . . ’ 

‘You leave them to me. Go on, now. In.’ 

The sky was lightening rapidly, and I knew 
we had little time left. His urgency and insis- 
tence galvanized me. Quickly I scrambled up into 
the maw of the pipe. Bevan helped Victoria in 
behind me. 

I wanted him to join us inside, but he did 
not. Face framed in its mouth, he said, ‘Go in as 
far as you can, where it’s dark. Stay there until I 
come back. Don’t make a bloody sound.’ 

And then he was gone. 

Christopher Evans’ novels include Ckippella ’s 
Golden Eyes, The Insider, In Limbo and Chimaeras. 
Aztec Century is his first book published by Victor 
Gollancz. He hves in London. 

Hardback £15.99, paperback £8.99. 


Ansible Link 

David Langford 

I n a touching ceremony in April, the 
Science Fiction Foundation said its 
last farewell to London and made a 
presentation to Joyce Day, the part- 
time secretary who has effectively run 
the Foundation and its library ever 
since the Administrator post was axed 
by the N.E. London Polytechnic (now 
the University of East London] in 
1980. Photographs proved that the sf 
research library was actually on 
shelves in its new University of Liver- 
pool home, and hordes of applications 
for the new, salaried Administrator 
post were reported. Euphoria reigned. 
A brief requiem in the manner of Pri- 
vate Eye’s E.J. Thribb was pressed into 
my hand by an anonymous editor of sf 

Lines on the Removal of the SF 
Foundation to Liverpool 

Farewell then 

North East London Polytechnic 
As was. 

“We can’t afford it.” 

That was 

Your catchphrase. 

The Revelling Princelings 

Stephen King collectors in the USA 
who pounced on “special limited first 
editions” of his recent novels were 
miffed to learn that the cheap British 
book club versions of Gerald’s Game 
and Dolores Claiborne are also the true 
world first editions . . . the latter by just 
one day. A book catalogue featuring 
the special edition of King’s story “My 
Pretty Pony” - a snip at $2,200 in 
brushed stainless steel covers with, 
mounted on the front, a small and 
cheap-looking digital clock - reports 
that the copy is in the usual state. That 
is, the clock has stopped. 

W. Somerset Maugham (or someone 
imitating his signature] insists on 
pointing out prophetic phrases in his 
1923 On a Chinese Screen, seemingly 
predicting the epic Chung Kuo series. 
For example: “T don’t much care for 
all these Chinese things meself,’ 
answered my hostess briskly, ‘but Mr 
Wingrove’s set on them. ’...‘Mr Win- 
grove won’t hear a word against the 
Chinese,’ said his wife, ‘he simply 
loves them.’ ” And so on. 

Maureen F. McHugh’s novel China 
Mountain Zhang has won the latest 
James Tiptree Jr award for sf exploring 
gender-related issues. I like the way 

this award is funded, in a little joke on 
those who complain it’s all run by 
women, by selling such items as cook- 
books - The Bakery Men Don’t See 
(which was shortlisted for a nonfiction 
Hugo award] and Her Smoke Rose Up 
From Supper. 

Marge Piercy received the £1,000 
Arthur C. Clarke award for her novel 
Body of Glass, soon to be a Penguin 
paperback. At the somewhat sham- 
bolic presentation ceremony there 
were noises of disappointment that the 
runner-up Red Mars by Kim Stanley 
Robinson had not won. Several pub- 
lishers were said to be planning a 
future boycott of the award after this 
“baffling” result. Yet spies tell me that 
Body of Glass was the immediate first 
choice of five award judges, and sec- 
ond choice for the sixth. (In some alter- 
nate branch of history, the judges are 
being criticized for unimaginatively 
choosing Red Mars “just because” it 
has a highly enthusiastic plug from 
Clarke himself on the jacket . . . ] On one 
hand, it is not the duty of an “expert” 
judging panel to discover and rubber- 
stamp whatever the popular mood 
might be. On the other, dismay was 
also expressed by informed critics 
who had actually read the Piercy book, 
including John Clute and Roz 
Kaveney. The latter remarked: “People 
were giving the judges very dirty 
looks. Of course the prime idiocy was 
not shortlisting Sarah Canary. . .” 

Leigh Priest (Kennedy] has taken the 
plunge and acquired Ilritish citizen- 
ship by reciting something I didn’t 
even know we Brits had . . . our Oath of 

Ian Watson, golden boy of British sf, 
was 50 this April. 

Infinitely Improbable 

At Last! The new Encyclopaedia of SF 
ed. John Clute and Peter Nicholls is a 
whoppingly impressive production. 
Congratulations to all. Statistics: 1,370 
pages plus prelims. About 1,300,000 
words (the 1979 edition ran to only 
730,000]. Over 4,360 entries (formerly 
2,800) . Over 2kg on the internationally 
accepted Langford Bathroom Scale. 
Over 2,900 author entries (formerly 
1817], One picture, on the jacket (for- 
merly lots], 2%" thick. Price £45.00, 
and worth it for the brilliant entry on 
Ansibles alone, not to mention kindly 
“contributing editor” Brian Stableford’s 

habit of cross-referencing everything 
to my and his The Third Millennium if 
not The Science in Science Fiction. 
cal theme entry might run, “are nota- 
bly not predicted by David LANGFORD 
and Brian STABLEFORD in...”] But I 
gather that Roz Kaveney was incensed 
to find no cross-reference from her 
entry to - her own coinage - BIG DUMB 
OBJECTS. My lawyers have advised me 
not even to smile. 

One last snag arose. Much initial 
hassle had resulted because the 1979 
edition was recorded on ancient eight- 
inch floppy disks decipherable only 
by Granada typesetting machines long 
since scrapped ... so the whole text 
had to be typed in afresh for revision. 
“This must never happen again,” 
swore technical editor John Grant. In 
due course, after the Encyclopaedia 
went to press , the final text on disk was 
urgently needed for the coming Nim- 
bus CD-ROM edition — whereupon 
publishers Little, Brown nervously 
explained that all the enormously 
many galley and page-proof correc- 
tions had been entered only on the 
typesetter’s disks, and not on anything 
the editors or Nimbus could them- 
selves read. The only thing we learn 
from history . . . 

That Lawsuit: Games Workshop’s 
injunction against Bantam/Trans- 
world concerning the trademarked 
“Dark Future” title (see past columns, 
passim] was upheld on appeal. At one 
stage GW got a ticking-off from the 
court for being “disingenuous in the 
extreme,” and they ended up having 
to pay half their own costs. Mean- 
while, a linked case is tackling the 
question of whether a plain English 
phrase like “Dark Future” should 
rightly have been granted trademark 
status in the first place. I see no end to 
all this. The lawyers are having enorm- 
ous fun, and everyone else loses. 

Apostrophe Watch, Continued. The 
well-known “quality” paperback 
imprint Picador sends a release on Jim 
Crace’s Arcadia, gleefully passed on 
by our editor: “...a celebration of the 
city, it’s energy, it’s optimism, it’s 
scale and it’s capacity to re-generate 
itself despite the deprivations which 
flourish in it’s secrets.” 

Vanity Phone Numbers. Did you 
know that Fred Clarke, brother of the 
more famous Arthur, has a local tele- 
phone number of 2001? 

interzone July 1993 41 

Mutant Popcorn 

Film Reviews by Nick Lowe 

I et’s first deal briskly with the sorry- 
I but-it-has-to-be-saids; Dust Devil 
is badly written, grimly acted, and 
wears its portentous aspirations like a 
set of concrete overshoes. Deprived 
this time round of behind-scenes 
script assist from the mighty Tharg, 
Richard Stanley has recycled the basic 
narrative infrastructure of his earlier 
Hardware (unstoppable inhuman 
slasher thing stalking leggy actress and 
methodically dicing all intervening 
males) with a new and incomparably 
more interesting set of issues, images, 
and ideas. But the plot is a shambles, 
the big ideas barely legible even in the 
two-hour director-s vanity cut, and his 
gift for characters and dialogue seems 
to have regressed to the egg. (“You’re 
not running from something, are you? 
Just looked like you were running from 
something.”) Chelsea Field and the 
normally-excellent Robert Burke look 
fabulous in their variously arresting 
dunewear till the moment they open 
their mouths and this stuff comes out; 
of the principals, only Zakes Mokae as 
the under-written detective manages 
to rise above the amateur-Australian 
level of the supporting players. Dire Ed 
Wood voiceovers attempt to fill in the 
spaces in meaning and motive (“An 
old man cancerous with guilt,” &c.), 
many of them incomprehensible to the 
the point of sublimity: “The desert 
knows her name now... Beyond the 
horizon, a tapestry unfolding of all the 
avenues of evil and all of history set 
ablaze. . .” 

So what on earth makes this total 
hyena’s breakfast one of the most lika- 
ble and exhilarating films to have 
emerged all year, and its well-chroni- 
cled struggle to an all-too-brief pre- 
video theatre release a small but cheer- 
able victory for the forces of light? Not, 
I think, the admittedly stunning 
Namib vistas, which have actually 
been seen before to comparable effect 
in immeasurably worse movies like 
Skeleton Coast and Red Scorpion, and 
generally with a rather lighter touch on 
the filters than Dust Devil finds to its 
taste. Nor is it much to do with Stan- 
ley’s own undeniably strong sense of 
image, let alone his over-insistent and 
largely gratuitous homages to a range 
of art-pulp cinematic influences from 
Leone to Legend of the Seven Golden 
Vampires. Rather, what makes this 
otherwise fairly video-premiere mate- 
rial so unexpectedly thrilling is its 

42 interzone July 1993 

bold, maybe suicidal, attempt to do a 
kind of Unconquered Country for 
southern Africa: a genre fantasy that 
tries to find a wholly new way of distil- 
ling a history of atrocity so vast and ter- 
rible that the Western imagination 
instinctively resists both the attempt 
to apprehend it and the acknowledg- 
ment of its own share of the responsi- 
bility. It obviously goes without saying 
that the specific idea of trying to tell 
the experience of frontline Africa 
through a patchwork of B-pic genres 
(spaghetti western, road movie, super- 
natural serial slasher, ad inf.) is com- 
pletely bonkers, and that even if Dust 
Devil's impossible ambitions came off 
there’d be no audience anyway for 
such a bizarre mixture of art-house 
political chiller and video-premiere 
slashpic. But the subject, and the 
ambitions, are simply so huge that it’s 
impossible for everything to get buried 
in the prevailing nonsense. 

A nd Namibia is without doubt an 
.extraordinary subject: a surreal 
land of impossible beauty and vio- 
lence that makes the rest of the planet 
look just pitifully tame, with an inheri- 
tance of horrors that mirrors, only 
more extremely, the legacy of its 
alarming neighbour. Behind the pre- 
sent-day pastel vistas of dunes, 
diamonds, and canyons, of Benetton 
people. Bavarian beer and cheesecake, 
and picturesque German colonial 
architecture, lurks an eerie world of 
small arms and razorwire, seaside 
towns full of barely-incognito Nazis, 
astounding Afrikaner-supremacist 
commando comics (I think the one 
glimpsed in the interrogation scene is 
Rocco de Wet: Grensvegter, about a 
heroic South African border guard’s 
bi-monthly war against the encroach- 
ment of black socialism), terrible 
country singers (“Namibia, Namibia/ 
It’s a beautiful country by far/Where 
the sun peels your nose and the glare 
makes you wince/And the friendly 
Namibians give a hearty ‘tot siens!”’), 
baffling tinned vegetables (“All Gold 
waterblommeltjies and salt”), and 
Windhoek’s own Black & White Sun- 
dae (2 scoops chocolate, 1 scoop van- 
illa). The whole country hums with 
weirdness, from the closed diamond 
city of Oranjemund (a slightly less 
realistic prototype of the Village) to the 
particular legend Stanley’s opted to 

pick up, the serial killer Nhadiep, 
whose bizarre myth has here been 
rather beautifully elaborated and 
cinematized to carry some ambitious, 
intricate ideas about the land and its 

Dust Devil’s storyline is carefully 
located at an intersection between a 
single momentous turning-point of its 
human history (Namibia’s rebirth as 
an independent nation in 1990) and 
the timeless, pre-human harshness of 
the land as embodied in the figure of 
the Dust Devil, a primeval spirit being 
trapped in flesh and history until he 
can free himself by completing a chain 
of blood rituals. The white strand of 
the ramshackle plot is Field’s attempt 
to escape SA and her thuggish hus- 
band by taking off across the border 
into the Namib; the parallel black 
thread is Mokae’s liberal local copper, 
trying to catch up with the killer before 
his own ghosts get to him first, and 
(given the neat plot rule that the Dust 
Devil only kills those who want to die) 
the convergence of the plotlines 
invites us to guess in advance which, if 
any, of these characters has anything 
to live for. It would be an awful lot bet- 
ter if the characters’ complex back- 
stories and emotional scars were a bit 
less superficially applied, but the reso- 
nances are there - with the killer com- 
ing to stand for both the underlying 
brutality of the land and the ancient 
ghosts that independence is desper- 
ately trying to lay to rest (as we’re 
reminded by an unsubtle stream of 
radio bulletins on the state of the power 
transition, economy, weather, post- 
card rock formations, and anything 
else deemed remotely significant). 

Obviously there’s far too much 
weight here for this kind of flimsy 
genre storyline to bear, and I could 
sympathize with anyone who felt the 
whole attempt was so pretentious and 
meretricious as to cheapen the very 
issues it tries to explore. But I don’t 
think anyone could disagree that this 
is the first film about South Africa to 
try to get past the kind of worthy hand- 
wringing realism that normally goes 
with the subject, aiming to hit both a 
different kind of emotional and 
imaginative nerve and an altogether 
different kind of film audience. The 
finished product may not catch any of 
these targets more than a glancing 
blow, but there’s still been nothing 
quite like this since the early Peter 

Weir (The Last Wave, in particular, 
seems to have been somewhere in 
mind), which actually seems rather 
soft by comparison. A touch less gothic 
hubris, the services of a decent script 
doctor, and a few more well-aimed 
clips round the actors’ ears might have 
worked an authentic miracle. 

W itness Sally Potter’s Orlando, 
which by dint of all three has 
managed to get away with a good deal 
more from what I can’t help feeling is 
actually a good deal less. Overt art- 
house claims and literary credentials 
have doubtless smoothed the path 
here, but once you peel away all the 
sumptuousness-by-numhers (big 
houses! big skirts! big hair !) there’s 
frankly not much of either left beneath. 
Though the first three quarters stick 
quite closely to the narrative and even 
the chapter-structure of the novel 
(with smug new theme-titles like 
“Death,” “Politics,” and “Sex”), Pot- 
ter’s decision to make Orlando’s story 
centrally about gender amounts to a 
considerable rewriting, even erasure, 
of its central subject. For, insofar as 
Mrs Woolf’s happy nonsense story was 
ever about anything at all other than 
what a jolly striking wench is Vita 
Sackville-West, it’s surely more than 
anything else about literature: about 
the bittersweet relationship between 
letters and life, the joy and foolishness 
of words and writing and the glorious 
hazards of trying to live one’s own his- 
tory around them or to record another’s 
through them. 

Though the novel is careful to avoid 
any explicit rationale for Orlando’s 
longevity or transformation, Woolf’s 
Orlando is above all a writer, a Peter 
Pan poet who simply takes an awfully 
long time to grow up, and changes gen- 
der on what amounts to little more 
than a fateful caprice. Other writers — 
indeed, other characters in the book - 
turn out to suffer the same condition, 
which is no ageless immortality (it’s 
vital to the novel that Orlando does in 
fact age twenty years over the three 
centuries of its timespan) but just a 
very unreliable relationship with time. 
Potter’s character, however, is quite 
differently constructed and motivated: 
he stops his biological clock at the 
command of England’s most beloved 
ageing queen, and opts out of mascu- 
linity when he twigs (after a century- 
plus, mind) that war is utterly horrid 
and all down to that nasty testosterone 
which he will hence forswear. And in 
the book, Orlando’s curiously dull, 
even while perfectly eventful, career is 
itself very largely a consequence of her 
lingering dalliance with literature; the 
film leaves itself no such excuse, and 
ends up with a hero/ine of scarcely any 
human colour or interest whatever 
(qualities not normally boosted by the 
casting of Tilda Swinton, nor are they 

Meanwhile, Orlando’s relationship 
to the reader has also been quite 
severely recast. Arguably the most 
appealing figure in the novel is actu- 
ally the voice of Orlando’s anonym- 
ous, ironic biographer, who interprets 
Orlando invisibly to the reader; but in 
the film Orlando is the author of her 
own biography and colludes (in the 
shifts from third person to first, and of 
course in that famous look) directly 
and knowingly with the audience. It’s 
not at all a bad idea in itself, but it’s 
something quite different, and what 
we get is a version that preserves 
Woolf’s storyline for its passing 
ironies of gender rather than the 
whimsical reflections on English liter- 
ature and the writing life it was origi- 
nally devised to sustain. It’s certainly a 
pleasant film, hard to dislike, that 
looks great and much of the time finds 
ways to circumvent its director’s evi- 
dent limitations (such as the inability 
to write scenes that hold the attention 
for more than six lines of dialogue); 
best when it can use VW closely, and 
only rarely good when it tries to sup- 
plement or mimic her (though top 
marks for “I can think of only three 
words to describe the female sex, none 
of which is worth expressing”). But it’s 
served right by the way its one cheeky 
segment of Greenaway pastiche has 
backfired in sober and unfavourable 
comparisons of the whole picture, 
because for all the fine work by the 
man’s own designers and script con- 
sultant it still manages to be complete 
tosh in a way that real Greenaway 
never entirely is. And for all its wit, 
literariness, and intellectual flair, 
qualities Dust Devil wouldn’t particu- 
larly want to know, it still manages to 
slump to the same style of vacuous v/o 
at its increasingly tiresome climax: 
“She is no longer trapped by destiny . . . 
Ever since she let go of the past she 

finds that her life is beginning. . .’’Yes, 
thank you, Sally; have you met 
Richard? “There is no good or evil, 
only spirit and matter; either move- 
ment toward the light or away from 
it... Our world is just an interruption 
of the beam, a projected image caught 
for an instant on an upraised hand ...” 
I’ll leave you two to chat. 

T o see how much the visionary 
indies still have to learn about 
sheer professionalism, you only need 
turn to the shameless and largely flaw- 
less Forever Young, an uplifting 
demonstration of bare-arsed Holly- 
wood daftness at its most completely 
uninhibited and irresistible. Managing 
somehow to seem comfortingly famil- 
iar, derivative and predictable even 
while coining the potentially revolu- 
tionary new subgenre of sf weepie, it’s 
easily the most inspired of the current 
crop of Housewife’s Ghoice movies 
(those in which e.g. Robert Redford 
pays your husband a MILLION DOLLARS 
so he can sleep with you, or in this case 
Mel Gibson walks into your dysfunc- 
tional kitchen to punch out your ex, fix 
your leaky roof, and cram a whole 
lifetime’s fathering into a couple of 
days with your ten-year-old). No 
ancient movie ploy to send shares in 
Scotties through the roof has been 
spared in this astounding knockout 
brew: the tragic roadsmash, the coma, 
the irreversible wasting ailment, the 
wrinkled lovers reunited after half a 
century apart, all are here. And never 
have so many explanation scenes been 
so deftly elided, gabbled through, 
drowned under swelling music, or cut 
past altogether (“Mom, I’m not making 
this up!”); never have so many daft 
bumps of plotting been negotiated 
with quite such expert stunt-driver 

Continued on page 69 

interzone July 1993 43 

Robert Burke & Chelsea Field in ‘Dust Devil’ 

By Permit Only 

Terry Bisson 

UTilT hat about the environmental costs?” 
W/%/ my boss asked. My boss, Mr Manning, 
W W always thinks about the environment. 
He’s Personal Paints’ Environmental Control Officer. 
Every company has one these days. 

“That’s the beauty of it. Manning,” the salesman 
told him. (At least, I thought he was a salesman.) “Our 
system keeps costs low by using the scientific 
straight-through smokestack style that is the latest in 
environmental off-load technology. The fumes go 
directly into the atmosphere — ” 

“What? You want me to release the poisonous by- 
products of Personal Paints directly into the atmos- 
phere, and you say there are no environmental costs?” 
“I didn’t say no, I said low,” the salesman said (at 
least, he talked like a salesman). “As you know, pollu- 
tion is legal these days as long as it is properly 
licensed and paid for. And the new administration 
has lowered the toxic particulate fee to 25 cents a ton. 
If you factor in your capital improvements credit, and 
the discount you get if you buy the new smokestack 
from a US company, you will save up to forty percent 
the first year over your current smoke scrubber sys- 
tem. Which doesn’t do all that damn much good any- 
way, judging from what I see out the window.” 
“Hmmmmm! Well, you’ve got a point there. Are 
you getting all this down. Miss, Miss 
“Mrs, and it’s Robinson,” I said, trying to ignore Mr 
Manning’s hand on my thigh. His sexual harassment 
permit (on file at the main office) didn’t cover actual 
genital contact, so I didn’t have to worry about him 
going much higher, thank God. “I’m writing it right 
here on my steno pad.” (Recycled paper; I do my part.) 

“It’s all covered in the literature I gave you, any- 
way,” the salesman went on (I was still thinking he 
was a salesman). “Unrestricted atmospheric off-load 
is only one element of a total waste-management sys- 
tem that also includes unlimited solid debris disper- 
sal and full-flow aquatic effluent elimination, all for 
one low EPA fee.” 

(EPA! So he was a government man.) 

“Well, now, you talk a good game,” Mr Manning 
said. “But can you help with our solid-waste disposal 
crisis? We’re talking heaps of stuff here.” 

“With our new accounting system, you no longer 
spend precious pennies trucking trash all over crea- 
tion looking for legal landfills,” the Environmental 
Protection Agency representative (for that was what 
he was) said. “You pay a one-time pollution penalty 
fee and pile the shit in a big fucking heap on the poor 
side of town.” 

like that,” said Mr Manning. “But what 
I about the sticky, stinky stuff? We have 
JL oodles of ordure that emit radioactive steam 
and drool dioxins directly into the groundwater. 
Y ou’re going to let us dump this anywhere we want?” 
“No, we have a responsibility to protect the pub- 
lic,” said the EPA rep. “The real stinky stuff, you 
dump it in the woods.” 

“I like that too,” said Mr Manning. “But what about 
the endangered species? You wouldn’t believe the 
grief we get from the environmental do-gooders 

“Forget them,” said the EPA rep. “If we listened to 
them, we’d be up to our assholes in owls.” 

“I thought it was eyebrows,” I said. 

“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it,” said 
Mr Manning, his prowling paw pausing at the hem of 
my panties, where his permit ran out. “Just be sure 
you’re getting all this down.” 

“It’s all covered in the literature I gave you, any- 
way,” said the EPA agent. “Since there are no endan- 
gered species left, the ES fees have been waived. That 
makes our direct environmental penalty payment 
cash plan even more attractive. According to the most 
conservative figures — ” 

While he droned on, I looked out the window. Mr 
Manning’s twenty-third floor office commanded a 
beautiful view of the river, looking with its gleaming 
oil slicks like Joseph’s coat of many colours. (I read 
the Bible every day. Do you?) 

The EPA rep was showing Mr Manning a four- 
colour picture of a 36-inch pipe. “The beauty of a sci- 
entific straight-through system is that it never clogs 
and rarely backs up,” he said. “The effluents are taxed 
once only and dumped directly into the river, which 
runs conveniently into the sea. It’s like a pay toilet.” 
“This guy’s a poet,” mused Mr Manning, running 
his hand along the crack that separated my trim but- 
tocks. I tried to ignore him (jobs are scarce these days) 
and kept looking out the window. It was a gorgeous 
day. You could almost see the sky. The radioactive 
dump across town glowed warmly, reminding me of 
home. Since the dump was in my neighbourhood, the 
high-geiger penalty fee (we called it clickety-clink, or 
mutation money) had provided bonus burial benefits 
for five of my six children. 

“Plus, it’s all plenty patriotic, since one hundred 
percent of the environmental penalty payment goes 
directly into the US treasury, and not to some high- 
tech Jap clean-up scam,” the EPA rep said, winding 
up his spiel. 

44 interzone July 1993 

“I like that,” said Mr Manning. 

I sneaked a glance at my watch. My chronically 
underemployed husband, Big Bill, would be waiting 
impatiently for me to get home to cook supper for 
himself and our last remaining child, the hideously 
deformed, demented little cripple. Tiny Tim. 

It was 4.59. Mr Manning and the EPA rep were still 
working out the details of the quarterly pollution pay- 
ment plan, which meant I would have to work late, 
whether I wanted to or not. 

Of course, I would get paid overtime. 

F inally, at 5.59, the papers were signed and I 
headed home. The stairs were crowded but the 
elevator was almost empty. Lots of people are 
afraid to take the elevator, after the terrifying acci- 
dents of the past few weeks, but just knowing the 
inspection certificate is on file in the building 
superintendent’s office (even if we’re not allowed to 
see it) is enough for me. 

The expressway was bumper-to-bumper with the 
big-finned fifties replicas that are popular now that 
leaded gasoline is available again. They were pump- 
ing pollution into the magenta-coloured air, but that 
was all right, since the carbon fees eased the tax bur- 
den for working wives like me. 

Besides, I’m more than just a wife — I’m a mother. It 
warmed my heart to think of all the ethyl-penalty 
bucks going into the HEW budget, helping to pay for 
the remedial education of my learning-dislocated, 
double-dyslexic, deranged little boy, Tiny Tim. 

I drove only half listening to the ads and to Howard 
Stern, who was back on the air - his station had appa- 
rently purchased another obscenity overload authori- 
zation. Traffic was slowed almost to a crawl near the 
airport. At first I feared it was another crash (which 
can tie up the turnpike for hours) but it was only a set 
of landing gear that had fallen onto the highway. This 
was happening more and more lately since the Fed- 
eral Aeronautics Board had started selling mainte- 
nance waivers to the airlines to augment the FAB 
retirement fund. 

I was glad to see the lights of our peaceful suburb, 
Memorial Elms. My pleasure was spoiled a little (but 
only a little) by the cross burning in the park. It looked 
as if the KKK had purchased another bias licence - 
not as expensive as actual violence permits. The 
lynching last week must have cost them a pretty 
penny (if you can use the word “pretty” for such a 
grim event). 

It was almost nine when I pulled into the drive. I 
knew I would be in trouble, so I hesitated at the door 
as long as I could - until I started to gag on the stench 
from our next-door neighour’s pigpen. It’s a terrible 
odour, but what could we do? Mrs Bush had paid her 
faeces fees, and the money went to lower our property 
taxes, after all. Plus, her animals were not eaten but 
tortured to death for science, and I knew that these 
experiments were helping improve the quality-of-life 
of my terminally-twisted, pus-encrusted semi- 
psychotic son. Tiny Tim. 

Barbara (I will not call her Babs!) was in her door- 
way, waving a rubber glove, but I didn’t wave back. 
Not to be snotty, but I hate it when ordinary people 
take on the airs of giant corporations. 

“Where the hell you been, bitch! ” Big Bill muttered. 

He took another swig of gin (ignoring the label, which 
SOME PEOPLE ACT UGLY). In fact, he grabbed my 
ass, and when I pulled away he made a fist like Ralph 
Cramden (don’t you love those old shows?) and 
pointed not toward the Moon but toward his framed 
wife-beating authorization certificate hanging on the 
wall over the dinette table, next to our marriage 

I gnoring his antics, I put the chicken in the oven, 
slamming the door quickly against the smell. I 
wondered how old it was but there was no way to 
tell. The expiration date was covered by an official 
USDA late-penalty override sticker, and it’s against 
the law to pull them off, like mattress tags. 

Where was Tiny Tim? Just then I heard automatic 
weapons fire (everybody has a permit these days) and 
he burst in the door; or rather, rolled in, his face all 
bloody and his wheelchair bent out of shape. 

“Where have you been?” I asked. (As if I didn’t 
know! He’s had to travel through a bad neighbour- 
hood lately, ever since the town floated a bond issue 
to buy a permit allowing them to bypass the hand- 
icapped access laws.) 

“Got mugged,” he said, spitting broken teeth into 
one claw-like, grasping little hand. 

“Who did it?” said his dad. “I’ll kill them!” 

“They had their papers. Pop!” whined our bruised, 
battered, blubbering baby boy. “They whipped them 
out and waved them in my face, and then it was 
whack whack whack!” 

“Poor kid,” I said, trying not to look at him. Never a 
pretty child, he looked even worse than usual. 
Instead, I looked out the window at the sunset. They 
say sunsets are better now than ever, now that pollu- 
tion is controlled. Gertainly they are colourful as all 
hell (if you’ll pardon my French!). 

“God damn them every one,” Tiny Tim said, wrink- 
ling what was left of his button nose. “What’s for sup- 
per, chicken again?” 

And that’s the end of my story. If you don’t like it, 
fuck you. Please direct any complaints to the New 
York office of the National Writer’s Union, Plot 
Department, where my Glimax Bypass Permit 
Number 5944 is on file. 

Fee paid. 

Terry Bisson, who lives in New York, last contributed 
to Interzone with the short story “Are There Any 
Questions?” (issue 62). Both that and the above piece 
will appear in his first collection, Bears Discover Fire 
A Other Stories, due out from Tor Books in the USA in 
October 1993. 

interzone July 1993 45 

A Brief History of Everything 

Prof. John D. Barrow interviewed by Paul McAuley 

C osmology, once a backwater popu- 
lated almost exclusively by 
obscure Russians, is now one of the 
hottest areas of science. In the past ten 
years a combination of particle 
physics, satellite astronomy and 
supercomputers has doubled our 
knowledge of the Universe. Books 
popularizing these discoveries, writ- 
ten by the very scientists at the fore- 
front of exploring the origins and 
structure of the Universe, are appear- 
ing on the bestseller lists. At the same 
time, humanists - most notably Mary 
Midgeley and Bryan Appleyard — have 
accused scientists of the most appal- 
ling crimes of elitism and hubris, of 
trying to write religion out of the pic- 
ture or, even worse, of trying to 
supplant God. There is, after all, the 
infamous last sentence of Stephen 
Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, 
which suggested that to understand 
why the Universe exists, and why we 
exist in it, is to understand the mind of 

John Barrow, Professor of Astronomy 
at Sussex University, takes a relaxed 
view of the renewed clash between 
Britain’s two cultures, and finds it 
ironic that these criticisms have only 
arisen because of the upsurge of 
popularizing by scientists. 

“It’s no longer just the output from 
journalists or ghostwriters, but scien- 
tists themselves on the forefront of var- 
ious research activities have started 
writing books about what they’re 
engaged in. One of the attractions 
about Stephen Hawking’s book is that 
here is someone at the forefront of 
some scientific investigation writing 
about what’s going on in a field of work 
that’s unsolved. In the past, books 
tended to be written after the event, 
such as The Double Helix, just telling 
the story of what happened.” 

Barrow himself is a paradigm of the 
new type of science popularizer. His 
last two books, Theories of Everything, 
and Pi in the Sky, have dealt with 
problems scientists have had in trying 
to describe the entire Universe in 
terms of simple sets of equations, and 
of the history and nature of mathema- 
tics. His collaboration with Frank 
Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological 
Principle, a vade mecum for any aspir- 
ing radical hard sf writer (and an 

46 interzone July 1993 

important inspiration for my novel 
Eternal Light), put forward the theory 
that the Universe is as old and as large 
and as structured as it is because if it 
were otherwise we wouldn’t be 
around to observe it, and contained 
daring yet closely argued speculations 
on the limits to the evolution and sur- 
vival of intelligent life. 

B arrow brings to his populariza- 
tions a wide-ranging intelligence 
— he can quote Umberto Eco or Karl 
Marx alongside Kurt Godel or Karl 
Popper - an engaging refreshingly 
unstuffy enthusiasm, and an ability to 
sustain the reader’s interest through 
closely argued accounts from simple 
propositions to their complex often 
undecidable outcomes — or vice versa. 

Theories of Everything is an exam- 
ple of the latter, for the goal of some 
physicists is to, as Barrow puts it, 
“Write down a mathematical equation 
that describes the world in some sense, 
and write it on your T-shirt.” This 
sounds awfully like the wish-fulfil- 
ment plots of ancient space operas — 
grasp the key of the Universe, and the 
Empire (and the Princess) will be 
yours! Barrow, who in his book 
demonstrates that it isn’t possible to 
write a complete Theory of Every- 
thing, sees this enthusiasm for exp- 
laining everything as a fin-de-siecle 

“Near the end of the last century the 
director of the Prussian patent office 
made an application to close his office 
because he thought that all the useful 
inventions had been made. The young 
Max Planck, when he decided he 
would like to become a research stu- 
dent in physics, was told that all the 
interesting discoveries had been made 
in physics and that he should go and 
work in biology or chemistry. So in 
recent years there has been a lot of 
enthusiasm and reporting of at least 
the terminology of a theory of every- 
thing, and discussion by people like 
Steve Hawking that perhaps the end of 
physics was in sight. What physicists 
mean by a theory of everything is very 
different from what is understood by 
such a term by ordinary people in the 
street. One motivation [in writing the 
book] was to try and make very clear 
what physicists mean by a theory of 

everything, and how if you had such a 
theory of everything, if it was one 
hundred per cent complete by physi- 
cists’ standards, what you would still 
require to still understand all the 
things we see around us, and in par- 
ticular the sorts of things that an ordi- 
nary person feels are unusual and 
worthy of being understood - ourse- 
lves for example. 

“When you talk to physicists they 
start telling you how wonderfully sim- 
ple the world is and that it is a beauti- 
fully symmetrical mathematical sys- 
tem if you look at it in the right 
mathematical way. But the ordinary 
person knows that the world is not 
simple and harmonious and symmet- 
rical but a vast higgledepiggledy mess 
of very complicated things, whether 
you look at your children’s bedrooms 
or things in the living world, or look at 
ourselves or our own psychology and 
physiology, or look at how our 
societies or economies are organized. 
If you talk to a biologist they won’t 
make any mention of simplicity or 
symmetry or mathematical laws of 
nature; all that matters for them is 
whether something is persistent, 
whether it is stable and wins out in the 
long run. So the results of natural 
selection don’t have to be simple or 
symmetrical - they just have to be con- 
sistent. There is this fundamental 
dichotomy in people’s minds - a 
dilemma between physicists telling 
them the world is simple whereas it is 
manifestly very complicated. 

“The resolution of this problem is 
that the world can be governed by very 
simple laws of nature, yet the outcome 
of these laws do not have to possess the 
same simplicities and symmetries and 
patterns as the laws themselves. This 
is in some sense the secret of the uni- 
verse - the fact that the outcomes of the 
laws of nature, of which you and I are 
complicated examples, don’t have to 
have the same symmetries and pat- 
terns as the laws themselves. So this is 
how we can have a universe governed 
by simple laws and yet manifest 
extremely complicated states and out- 
comes. The particle physicist is 
searching for the succinct version or 
encapsulization of these laws - the 
biologist or sociologist is looking at the 
collection of complicated outcomes. 

“It also teaches us that if we knew all 
the laws of nature, the theory of every- 
thing the physicists are searching for, 
we wouldn’t necessarily be able to 
understand all the outcomes of the 
laws and all the complexity that arises 
from those outcomes. So this is one 
point I was keen to get across, how the 
search for Theories of Everything is a 
search for the laws of nature - but the 
things that we see around us, the out- 
comes of the laws, do not possess the 
same simplicities, and even if we 
knew all the laws, we wouldn’t neces- 
sarily be able to explain or predict all 
the structures in the world.” 

D espite these limitations, cosmo- 
logists have made tremendous 
strides in understanding the evolution 
of the Universe using computer mod- 
elling. Are there limits to how deeply 
scientists can probe the events at the 
beginning of the Universe? 

“Cosmologists have a good under- 
standing of the average overall pattern 
of expansion of the Universe. What we 
don’t have a good picture of are the 
details of how all the lumps and 
bumps within it arose — why galaxies 
have the shapes and sizes that they do; 
whether they form before bigger clus- 
ters of galaxies or afterwards. We don’t 
have a compelling single theory for all 
the fine details, but a number of rival 
theories, and observations of ripples in 
space [recent data from the COBE 
satellite, which showed asymmetric 
structures in the early Universe], 
which is really providing a photo- 
graph of the Universe in radio waves 
when it was a million years old. What 
you see there are the embryonic lumps 
and bumps that eventually amplify to 
become galaxies artd bigger structures; 
so we get a snapshot of them as they 
were in their youth. So it’s as if some- 
one had arrived from outer space and 
been shown millions of old people and 
had to figure out how these people 
emerged and grew - but then he man- 
ages to get his hands on a snapshot of a 
children’s maternity ward and gets a 
look at what those people were like 
when they were very young. What we 
lack is the movie of what happened in 
between and people try to make that 
movie by computer simulations. 

“What’s interesting about modern 
cosmology is that it signals a new way 
of doing science, and that is not just 
with pencil and paper, or just by 
observing things, but by producing 
large computer simulations of what’s 
going on. So people have been 
attempting to simulate the process 
whereby the first stars and galaxies 
started to coagulate, and become 
denser and produce the shapes and 
sizes that we see, with certain assumed 
starting conditions. And then they just 
try to see whether the final states in the 
patterns produced match what we see, 
to pin down what the starting states 

might have been. The COBE observa- 
tions give you a glimpse of what the 
starting state was almost - so far the 
published observations are not accu- 
rate enough to pin it down, but they 
have another one and a half years of 
data, so the information still to come is 
much more accurate than what’s been 
revealed, and presumably the inves- 
tigators won’t reveal it until they have 
extracted the most dramatic theoreti- 
cal consequences for themselves. 

“There’s a wider point about this 
computer simulation. In ancient times 
people thought of the Universe as a liv- 
ing entity, and then Pythagoras and 
Plato thought of it as a mathematical 
system, and Newton and his followers 
as a vast clockwork mechanism, and 
the Victorians as a heat engine, and so 

on. These aren’t coincidences; they are 
tied to aspects of technology, the 
emergence of the pendulum clock in 
Newton’s time, the industrial revolu- 
tion and steam engines give you the 
heat death of the Universe. In modern 
times we’ve suddenly got this image of 
the Universe as a vast computer, 
which has emerged at the same time as 
the computer evolution, and this leads 
to all sorts of speculative avenues in 
which one can develop both fictional 
and non-fictional pictures of the Uni- 
verse. We can ask what the next 
paradigm will be - it will probably 
grow out of some aspect of virtual real- 

“Already, mathematicians have 
started to develop new ways of explor- 
ing mathematical truths. Not just by 

inlprzone July 1993 47 

trying to prove theorems, but by build- 
ing a virtual reality in which the 
geometry is governed by particular 
unusual rules and regulations. Then 
you place yourself inside this simula- 
tion and look around to see if your 
theories and conjectures are true or 
not. So you do observational mathe- 
matics by creating a world that’s gov- 
erned by particular rules. In my new 
book [Pi in the Sky] I invent a fictional 
scenario where we make contact with 
an extraterrestrial civilization by acci- 
dent; we intercept some of their sig- 
nals and then are able to tap into the 
archives of their societies’ libraries 
and people get the first wave of infor- 
mation back which is a list of contents 
of their mathematical reference books. 
At first there’s enormous excitement 
because they have listings of what 
appear to be solutions to all the great 
unsolved problems of mathematics — 
Fermat’s last problem, Goldbach’s 
problem and so on. So people call a 
convention on the date when they 
know the next batch of files is going to 
arrive and these files are going to pro- 
vide proofs of these great theorems. 

“But when the files arrive, people 
are enormously disappointed. They 
discover that this very advanced civili- 
zation has a mathematics quite diffe- 
rent from ours. They’re not really 
interested in proof, but do all their 
mathematics empirically by computer 
search through billions and billions of 
cases. So if after studying a hundred 
trillion examples of sets of numbers 
they find what we call Pythagoras’s 
Theorem always holds good, then they 
call it ‘true,’ just as we call Newton’s 
Law of Gravity ‘true,’ even though we 
haven’t seen every apple fall, but 
enough to assume that all others will 
behave the same. The aliens do their 
mathematics in this same way, and 
because their computer technology is 
very advanced they can search for 
things very efficiently. They know 
about proof as a curiosity, and they 
know it’s limited by things like 
Godel’s Theorem. But the computer 
search isn’t so limited; it can jump out 
of the logical deductive process. So we 
might speculate that if advanced 
civilizations exist, or our own evolves 
in a dramatically different way, the 
way in which mathematics is done 
might become very different.” 

1 suggest that this conjures up a 
scenario of computer hobbyists 
doing pure mathematics by wandering 
around virtual realities looking for 
“beauty.” A rather bizarre notion, con- 
sidering that pure mathematics is held 
to be the most difficult of all sciences, 
but Barrow sees it as a natural develop- 

“Amateur astronomers make impor- 
tant contributions to astronomy with 
particular sorts of problems which 
require long-term study of a particular 

48 interzone July 1993 

system. It used to be thought that the 
main business of maths was theorems 
and proofs , but in the study of the com- 
plicated outcomes of the laws and 
equations, things like chaos and com- 
plexity have been found. And there is 
scope for this kind of experimental 
mathematics. Fractals are the best 
known example.” 

One of the interesting ideas in 
Theories of Everything - especially as 
an sf writer - was that the Universe 
may have evolved in different direc- 
tions from the same initial conditions, 
and I asked Barrow to elaborate on 
that. Could we travel from one set of 
laws and physical constants to 

“We’re used to thinking of space and 
time as a four-dimensional ball and 
we’re living on its surface, which is 
very smooth. Then physicists specu- 
lated that there’s no reason why it 
should be as simple as that — there may 
be all sorts of handles or crenellations 
of great intricacy - and they disco- 
vered that these irregularities can 
determine the constants of nature. So 
you could have many large balls of 
space joined by tubes - so-called 
wormholes — with many intricate con- 
nections between the wormholes. 
Each region of space would have its 
constants and overall structure deter- 
mined by the network of connections 
to it, so the nature of physics would be 
very different from region to region. 

“You might imagine the initial con- 
ditions of the Universe to be a vast, 
interconnected, very complex net- 
work of worlds that could have its own 
organized complexity. You could 
imagine the interconnected worlds are 
as coitiplex as a living system. What 
makes us living and self-interacting is 
just the complexity of the neural inter- 
connections, so the circuitry of these 
worlds could be sufficiently compli- 
cated to give rise to life. Science-fiction 
writers, as far as I know, haven’t started 
to explore these wormhole-connected 
worlds — there’s a lot of scope for exa- 
mining questions like: what is meant by 
a series of complex interacting worlds? 
What new types of phenomena can 
emerge from the complex interactions 
between them? Just as you can wire to- 
gether a collection of atoms to produce 
a human brain and a whole new realm 
of phenomena, what would happen if 
these worlds were ‘wired’ together in a 
complicated way by wormhole con- 
nections? What sorts of things would 
emerge? One can only speculate.” 

B arrow’s new book. Pi in the Sky, 
extends Theories of Everything’s 
investigation into the nature of 
mathematics and its relationship with 
the Universe of things, asking deep 
questions on the origins of counting, 
and whether or not mathematics has a 
separate existence. Is there such a 
thing as “mathematics space”? 

“There’s been a lot of interest in this 
Platonic idea that mathematics exists 
‘out there’ and we discover it — it 
would exist even without mathemati- 
cians. Penrose’s book The Emperor’s 
New Mind is based very firmly on the 
belief that mathematics exists some- 
where, but he avoids asking all the 
awkward questions such as if it does 
exist ‘out there’ how do we make con- 
tact with mathematical truth? Are we 
saying that mathematicians can tune 
in to this other world and non-mathe- 
maticians can’t? 

“The other ideas I like to pursue go 
back to this computer image. Suppose 
we are astronomers trying to predict 
how galaxies form by building a big 
simulation of how little masses cluster 
together. We can imagine in the far 
future building bigger and more 
detailed simulations showing stars 
and planets forming, adding rules of 
biochemistry to see replicating 
molecules forming on these planets, 
and then living things able to com- 
municate with one another in simula- 
tion. For all practical purposes they 
would believe themselves alive and 
we would be sitting on the outside 
looking at this simulation. We might 
then ask the question: what are these 
living things? Well, they are really just 
pieces of information in the program, 
and if we changed the hardware they 
would still exist. So we could take the 
last step and do away with computer 
hardware altogether. Suppose we 
think of mathematics as being a vast 
web, with axioms at the bottom and a 
deductive network rising up from it to 
produce all the truths of mathematics. 
Mathematics clearly allows the exis- 
tence of entities like ourselves, and 
somewhere in that vast web of mathe- 
matical truths, there are entities like 
ourselves which can communicate in 
some way with other entities in the 
mathematical formalism, and as such 
they seem to be alive in every sense of 
the word even if they don’t have any 
physical manifestation. So there is this 
rather curious conclusion that any- 
thing that can exist in mathematics 
does exist in reality. 

“One of my interests is to pursue this 
picture. The old problem with 
Platonism is that there is the mathema- 
tical other world and there’s this mate- 
rial world around us, with everything 
in it a pale reflection of perfect things 
in the mathematical world. People 
worry about the relationship between 
the two. Most people get around this 
by doing away with the other world 
and saying that what you see is what 
you get. Another angle is to argue that 
all you have is the mathematical 
world, the Platonic world, and we are 
just very complex structures that 
inhabit this world. We are like soft- 
ware — you shouldn’t try and think 
there’s any hardware. It’s not a com- 
pletely worked out idea but it’s an 

interesting direction in which to 
move. It’s a logical conclusion of 
studying the world using simulations 
and saying, well, suppose the simula- 
tions got better and better.” 

F inally, the end. The end of the Uni- 
verse, that is. I find it fascinating 
that Olaf Stapledon, in Star Maker 
(1937), wrote about the final evolution 
of intelligence into the Universal 
Overmind, an intuitive conclusion 
that was very similar to Barrow and 
Tipler’s conclusions derived from 
seeing how far they could push the 
physics of information processing. 

“In fact it’s much more difficult to 
predict the future than to determine 
the structure of the Universe in the 
past. The reason is very simple — as 
you go backwards in time everything 
gets hotter and denser and approaches 
a state of thermal equilibrium, the 
physics of which are easy to unravel. 
But in the future you get farther and 
farther from equilibrium, and far- 
from-equilibrium physics is on the 
frontier of unsolved problems. 

“The speculative line we took in The 
Anthropic Cosmological Principle 
was to take a lesson from computer sci- 
ence and complexity theory, to try and 
define living systems as information 
processors. One advantage of that is 
there are some fairly precise mathema- 
tical results that you can produce, and 
you can ask the question — can infor- 
mation processing continue indefi- 
nitely? And it turns out that it can. 
Even if the Universe ends in a Big 
Crunch it’s possible (in principle) for 
an infinite amount of information to be 
processed before it does. The other 
thing we discovered, of general 
philosophical interest, is that ever 
since the turn of the century there’s 
been a notion of the heat death of the 
Universe: that if the Universe were to 
expand forever, it would settle into a 
great uniform sea in which everything 
would reach the same temperature, an 
equilibrium where life can’t exist. And 
this fuelled all sorts of pessimistic 
philosophy and theology, and prob- 
ably science fiction as well. But in fact, 
when you look at things closely, it 
turns out that the basis of this pes- 
simistic tradition is false. It is quite 
true that the level of disorder — the 
entropy — of the Universe is increasing, 
but the maximum entropy the Uni- 
verse can have at any time is also 
increasing, and it’s increasing faster 
than the actual entropy. So, as time 
goes on we are moving farther and 
farther from equilibrium, and away 
from the heat death. So the potential 
for organization, the amount of free 
energy available for organization, is 
actually increasing. We tried to sketch 
a scenario in which you could exploit 
that to store information in simple sub- 
atomic systems such as electron and 
positron pairs. This creates a Turing 

Machine which is enough to simulate 
almost everything. 

“The big question is whether this 
will or could happen in practice. Once 
carbon life-forms like ourselves have 
evolved, they are a useful catalyst for 
producing what may turn out to be 
more prolific forms of life based on 
silicon. And what’s curious is that, 
years ago, there were many science- 
fiction stories about life based on sili- 
con chemistry, but what seems to be 
happening is that it is life based on sili- 
con physics, in the form of silicon 
chips and so forth, which is proving to 
be much more interesting and flex- 

1 mention the possibility that buck- 
minsterfullerenes, the football- 
shaped polymers constructed of sixty 
carbon atoms, might be as useful as 
silicon in constructing the ultimate 
life-form - after all, they are believed 
to be an important constituent of 
interstellar dustclouds and, doped 
with appropriate rare earths, may have 
superconducting properties - and this 
leads Barrow to reflect on the neces- 
sary incompleteness of our under- 
standing of what might be possible. 

“Another quite nice speculation 
applies to phenomena like high-temp- 
erature superconductors, which again 
is a manifestation of complexity, of 
organizing things. These were pro- 
duced by mixing weird cocktails of 

ceramic materials like yttrium and 
goodness knows what, just like cook- 
ery. It seems very likely that the first 
time this was done in Zurich a few 
years ago was the first time high-temp- 
erature superconductivity was man- 
ifested in the Universe. There’s no 
reason why those magic combinations 
of materials should turn up in any 
natural form at low enough tempera- 
tures in planetary interiors or any- 
where else in the Universe. I find this a 
very sobering thought - that all these 
manifestations of complex organiza- 
tion are just lying latent in equations. 

“So we can see why our Theory of 
Everything is never going to tell us 
everything. There’s an infinite sea of 
possible manifestations of complex 
organization which we can’t predict in 
their entirety. Even if we looked at 
them all, we couldn’t predict all the 
Laws of Nature; and if we knew all the 
laws, we couldn’t predict all the out- 

John Barrow, Pi in the Sky, Oxford 
University Press. 

John Barrow, Theories of Everything, 

John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The 
Anthropic Cosmological Principle, 
Oxford University Press. 

Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, 

Paul J. McAuley, Eternal Light, Orbit. 

Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind, 
Oxford University Press. # 

interzone July 1993 49 

Kennedy Saves the 
World (Again) 

William Whyte 

S hop Street, 8 am. Bleary-eyed students up from 
Dublin for the night stagger for the early coach, 
little realizing that it’s been rescheduled to 
7.30 because of roadworks at Athlone. Knots of 
people stand outside the shops waiting for the man- 
ager to arrive with the key. The morning sun shines 
somewhat unforgivingly down the street. The clock 
on the jeweller’s is defiantly but unhelpfully telling 
Galway time, the manager having gone mad during 
the night and decided that London time is an alien 
import. Those students whose eyes aren’t so bleary 
that they can’t read the clock at all see the time, relax, 
stop running so fast and miss the next coach too. 

John F. Kennedy gets up and stares out of the win- 
dow of the small room on Eyre Square that he’s been 
renting for the last thirty-odd years, his breath barely 
strong enough to mist the pane. He runs his fingers 
through that cursed beard, checks with them to see 
that the bald patch is still there. He expects it is. He 
hasn’t had to maintain it artificially since 1975. He’s 
still a little disappointed to find it, though. 

A Bible lies on his bed; a medicine chest full of the 
most modern painkillers is screwed firmly to the wall 
above the sink. And padlocked. He used to give him- 
self ten minutes between getting up and giving him- 
self the first injection, pretending it was good for him 
to feel the pain for that long, but he’s too old for that 
bullshit now. It took him a while to adjust to retire- 
ment but he’s got the hang now. It’s pacing yourself, 
doing those things you can do very slowly and care- 
fully. It’s also doping yourself with so many painkil- 
lers that you don’t notice you’ve tripped until five 
minutes after you’ve hit the ground. That helps a lot. 

He doses himself, locks the medicine chest, leaves 
the room, and goes out into the John F. Kennedy 
Memorial Park, where he wanders along the top end 
to salute the flag - okay, it’s the Irish flag, but it does 
no harm to keep in practice. The students who are 
standing around waiting for the ten o’clock bus giggle 
at him briefly and then go back to bitching about the 
roads. He moves over to a bench and sits down, smil- 
ing at the couples (it won’t last, he thinks, it won’t 
last, you keep your eye on him or he’ll be going off 
with Nastassia Kinski first chance he gets) and wait- 
ing for the first newspaper to be dropped in a bin. It’s 
the Galway Advertiser. Oh well. At least it’s not likely 
to have many embarrassing stories about Teddy in it. 

As he sits there, reading through the small ads for 
prams and tractors and beds, his heart stops, but he 
doesn’t feel anything through the haze of painkillers; 
he doesn’t realize that he’s now just a shabbily dressed 

dead old man on a bench in Galway who’ll sit there 
for four hours before someone notices the angle he’s 
slumping at and the blankness of his stare. He doesn’t 
realize any of this, he just sits and goes on reading the 
same advertisement over and over again. It offers to 
sell him a pram, and gives him a box number to write 
to. He doesn’t know why he finds it so fascinating, but 
he reads it over and over again. 

E ven when, after four and a quarter hours, the 
medical team come with a stretcher to take 
away his rapidly stiffening body, he doesn’t 
notice anything’s happened. He stays sitting on the 
bench as they take his body away, still reading the 
advertisement over and over again. It seems somehow 
appropriate. Towards eight in the evening, night not 
yet fallen, he congratulates himself on how well he’s 
paced his day and decides to go and get some food. 
Even when he stands up he doesn’t realize that his 
body isn’t there any more; with the painkillers he 
hardly ever felt the ground beneath his feet anyway, 
and except for that early-morning glance in the mirror 
he’s more or less made a habit of never looking at his 
body. His eyesight has been misting over for the last 
five years and he’s just been too attached to his old 
glasses, too stubborn, too (let’s bie honest here) poor to 
get another pair. If it had been a normal evening he 
probably wouldn’t have noticed that his body wasn’t 
there at all until the following morning. 

As he wanders along Shop Street he notices that 
more people than usual are wearing white. They’re all 
tall and youthful and blonde. It’s odd. This year is one 
of the years when youth fashion is to wear black all 
over, no matter what the weather. The people in white 
move unconcernedly through the crowds, effortlessly 
passing through the currents of people, seeming to 
flow rather than to move in any way as mundane as 
walking. They seem to be looking at him a bit too 
closely for politeness; but then, since November 
1963, anyone who’s looked at him at all has seemed to 
be looking at him a bit too closely. He thought he’d 
grown out of it. 

As he walks he realizes he isn’t really very hungry, 
so he goes and sits and stares at the river in the gather- 
ing dusk. Something, something which he can’t put his 
finger on, feels subtly different. (The reason why he 
can’t put his finger on it is because he doesn’t have a 
finger any more, but his body has come to disgust him 
so much that he’s long since got out of the habit of 
looking at it.) A man, dressed inconspicuously in more- 
or-less soil-coloured clothes, sits down beside him. 

50 interzone July 1993 

“You’re new here, aren’t you?” he says. 

Kennedy blinks at him. Funny, he thinks, that felt 
different. Maybe ... but the thought runs away from 
him. “Why, no sir,” he says. “I’ve been here 30 years, 
come November.” And he amuses himself, as he has 
done so often, thinking of the expression on poor 
deranged Lee Oswald’s face as he hears another bang 
while he’s in the middle of re-loading, looks out the 
window, sees the President’s head half-exploded, 
and realizes, or thinks he realizes, that he’s been a 
patsy all along. It always makes Kennedy smile, 
thinking of it, and it does again tbis time; but it feels 
different tbis time again. He furrows bis brow (and 
that, too, feels odd) and tries smiling again; and again, 
be can feel something happening but it doesn’t feel 
normal. Has he had a stroke? he wonders. Can you 
have a stroke without noticing? The river gushes on, 
looking unusually full and healthy for such a dry 

“You’ll pardon the intrusion,” says the man, “but I 
saw you looking a bit on the disorientated side.” 

Kennedy has been disorientated for tbe last twenty- 
nine years. It is no surprise to hear that he’s showing 
it. He looks at the man without speaking. The man is 
in his early, maybe, fifties, stubbled; bis nose and 
cbin are sharp, but his eyes are gentle. He speaks with 
a soft Galway accent. The lapels of his heavy coat are 
turned up, even though it’s been a warm summer day 
and it’s still a warm summer evening. 

“I’m just tired,” Kennedy says. “The heat gets to 
you after you’ve been out in it too long.” But now, 
talking about how he feels physically, he’s surprised 
to notice that the aches and pains that he’s been living 
with for fifty years now, which would normally have 
been bursting out all over his body at this time of day 
as the painkillers wore off, just aren’t there any more. 

“Mr Kennedy,” the man says, and that startles him. 
No one knows his name. In those first few hectic days 
he’d undergone plastic surgery so intensively he’d 
been sure nobody would ever recognize him again; 
but bone structure comes out, he supposes. The first 
moment’s shock passes, and he is surprised to see 
himself not upset at all, just slightly regretful that the 
rules of the game have changed again, so late on in it. 
It’s too late in my life for this kind of change, he 
thinks, the irony (inevitably) going right over his 
head. He just sits there, trying not to move a muscle 
and finding it unexpectedly easy. 

“Mr Kennedy,” the man says. “Are you sitting 

This is a very strange question. 

“Because I have some news for you that you might 
not want to hear,” the man continues. Kennedy braces 
himself for the threat of blackmail, or the news that all 
the well-meaning people who he’d wanted to get 
away from just as much as the ill-meaning people 
have known of his existence for years and are plan- 
ning to fly him back to Washington in glory. Having 
prepared himself again for all the shocks that he’s pre- 
pared himself for so many times over the years, he 
finds himself genuinely shocked when the man 
pauses and says, quite gently: “You’re dead.” 

A nd when Kennedy recovers his bearings, he’s 
ten feet above tbe chair, spinning gently in 
b mid-air. 

interzone July 1993 51 

Illustrations by Russell Morgan 

“Mr Kennedy!” the man says, still sitting just to his 
left. “Mr Kennedy! If you’re not sitting down, you 
must sit down now! 

Kennedy doesn’t react. He doesn’t know how. He 
feels sensations which might be in what might be 
muscles leading to what might be his face, but he no 
longer knows what they mean. Suddenly, he’s 
noticed that his body isn’t there any more. The com- 
forting blur which he always saw out of the corner of 
his eye, and which always came (more comfortingly, 
it has to be said) into focus when he looked at it, now 
stays a blur no matter how hard he looks at it. A faintly 
glowing grey blur. And that’s all. Even the river below 
him, which was so well-defined and healthy and, 
well, there a minute ago, is now an indistinct blue 
blur which bleeds gradually into the green of the grass 
next to it... and was the grass really that shade of 
green? It’s amazing how- badly you turn out to remem- 
ber things you see every day. 

“Mr Kennedy!” the man says, but Kennedy can 
hardly hear him, can hardly convince himself that 
he’s hearing anything other than random noise, can 
hardly convince himself that the word “Kennedy” 
even means anything as he feels everything washing 
away from him. “Mr Kennedy! Concentrate on your 
hand! Your hand! Your hand!” He goes on repeating 
hand, insistently, over and over again, and Kennedy 
can’t bring himself to do what he says. He thinks he 
feels his arms floating outstretched, away from his 
body, but he no longer knows anything; even when he 
feels his hand float back towards his line of vision, he 
finds himself shutting his eyes, not willing to try any- 
thing, preferring just to let his identity slowly drift 

But then he can’t stop himself looking at his hand, 
but he focuses way beyond it, in the middle distance, 
giving himself two ghost left hands floating, badly- 
defined, in front of his face, so at least they have an 
excuse for being badly defined and out of focus. And 
then the man, who had been intoning the word 
“Hand” in a regular rhythm over and over again, sud- 
denly screams “Your Hand!” at him. The rhythm is 
broken. In the sudden shock Kennedy finds himself 
instinctively focusing on it, and suddenly, there in 
front of him is the hand he had when he was 40. 
“Damn,” he says. “Damn.” And as he stares at his 
hand in wonderment, his suited arm turns out to have 
been attached to it all along; and there’s his right 
hand, as it always has been, and there he is, in a com- 
fortable sports jacket and shirt and tie and trousers, 
and he’s just preparing to recognize the patch of green 
underneath him as the White House lawn when the 
man next to him speaks. 

“Mr Kennedy? Are you in Galway?” 

“Why, no, son,” the President says to this man who 
must surely be older than him. “I’m in . . .” but Galway 
does sound very familiar. 

“Sit down on this bench, sir. Look at the river with 
me,” the man says. “Watch the way it froths along the 
middle. D’you see?” 

Kennedy isn’t sure. 

“And look at the way the colour changes, from the 
middle to the still water over there by the wall,” the 
man says, pointing across the river. “Feel its life. Have 
you ever known anything like river water, sir? If it 
didn’t exist, could anyone possibly imagine it?” 

Kennedy stares at the still brown water along the 
wall on the far side of the river, which he can just 
make out the stones at the bottom of. But then the joy 
and the power of the central stream of the river draw 
his attention, and he finds his eyes wandering to it, 
and then being drawn downstream to the bridge, wan- 
dering up it to the couples leaning over seeing their 
own individual patterns in the water. His ghost noses 
in front of his eyes seem more distinct than they have 
for a long time; the couples on the bridge better 
defined, more clear and sharp. And he’s suddenly 
glad he’s in Galway, reckons he could spend the rest 
of his life here, it’s a slower life but a better one in a lot 
of ways. 

ut the man’s still staring at him. “Mr Ken- 
nedy,” he says. “We need your help.” 

“What can I do for you, son?” Kennedy says, 
delighting in the new, old, sharp, clipped edge to his 
voice, the feeling of genuine power in his body that he 
hasn’t felt since the war. Yes ! - he thinks - yes ! I could 
do anything now! 

“Mr Kennedy,” the man says. “May we walk 
around your town and talk?” 

My town, Kennedy finds himself thinking. Yes. 
Anything could be mine. “Sure,” he says. “I’d be 

They walk back up Quay Street, Middle Street, 
streets that Kennedy doesn’t often go along but seems 
to remember far better than he expected. As they walk 
the man talks to him. “This is heaven you’re in,” he 
says. “Or an afterlife, at least. I don’t know how long 
I’ve been here. And, er, I don’t know what it looks like 
really. You’ve noticed yourself that when you first 
realized where you were you nearly lost the image of 
the place altogether. - Nice place, by the way. Many 
people, when they get here, they’re so overcome by 
the shock that they disperse altogether. They just 
spread out throughout - well, ‘throughout’ is, er . . . - 
they just spread out. They start as a dark grey blur, and 
they spread out till they’re so thin you can’t see them. 
You’ve held together remarkably well. Tni not sur- 
prised . . . God forbid. It’s very good, but.” 

Kennedy nods knowledgeably. They go past the 
offices of the Galway Advertiser and stop to stare, as 
Kennedy has so often, at the bad watercolour of him 
on the wall saying “ask not what your country can do 
for you, but what you can do for your country.” He 
stares at his face on the painting and the identical but 
reversed reflection of his face in the window, and 
feels a wild rush of exhilaration through his blood as 
the man goes on talking. 

“The reason why I made so sure to get to you just 
after you arrived . . . well. I’ll start from the other end. 
God used to walk among us. He used to be every- 
where, with everyone, all the time. He’d be giving 
support and love to you all the time...ach, I don’t 
know how to describe it.” He breaks off and stares 
beseechingly at Kennedy. Kennedy stares back, wil- 
ling to be moved but not moved yet. 

The man gropes for words. “See, it’s like . . . there are 
lots of thrills in the world, there’s lots of ways of get- 
ting your kicks in the short term, and you could have 
those here if you wanted. But there’s nothing like the 
warmth you get from being special to one person and 
knowing that you’ve stayed with them for so long, and 

52 interzone July 1993 

knowing that you can stay with them forever. Some- 
one infinitely supportive and loving. You know?” 
Kennedy glances sharply at the man, but there’s no 
sign of irony in his voice and the question was obvi- 
ously rhetorical; the man’s just so caught up in grop- 
ing for his meaning that he’s forgotten who he is talk- 
ing to. “It’s that kind of warmth you have, but. . .but 
fuller and warmer and better. I can’t. . .well, anyway. 
A hundred years ago. About. God went. He’s no 
longer here. We’re lost. We don’t know what to do. So 
we’ve been, er,” he looks embarrassed for a bit, “we’ve 
been electing someone to be God. To, well, not to be 
God exactly, but to be a stable point in the middle of 
us all, someone we can look to and know is there even 
if they don’t do anything much of the time. But it’s a 
hard job, and people are dispersing, and places are 
going. People are, just, spreading out, becoming vag- 
uer and vaguer, and vanishing in despair. And 
places!” He nods at his reflection in the glass. “I 
haven’t seen buildings this well-defined in fifty years. 

“So what are you saying?” Kennedy asks cauti- 
ously, but he already knows. He can feel the triumph 
swell within his chest. 

“I’d like you to consider being God,” the man says. 
“You remember Galway so well that we can rebuild 
Heaven from here - it’s bound to sharpen people’s 
memories of the area around it, and we can work out- 
wards across Ireland and the world. You have experi- 
ence of power. You have experience of campaigning. 
You have experience of being the kind of leader who 
inspires total loyalty, total belief. You have a stronger 
sense of your own identity than anyone else here, 
near enough. The flame of life is burning high inside 
you. And you’re a Catholic, which can’t do us any 
damage. Will you do it?” 

“What happens if I say yes?” Kennedy still has 
enough self-control to ask, but every fibre in his body 
is screaming YES! already. 

“Well. You have to be elected.” 

“How does that happen?” 

“I’m not sure. A consensus emerges.” 

Kennedy doesn’t trust consensus. The man sees it 
in his eyes. “Don’t worry about it,” he says. “It’s all 
straightforward enough.” 

“The important question,” Kennedy says. “Is there 
an election due soon?” 

“It ... ah ... it doesn’t quite work that way,” the man 
says, staring at the pavement so Kennedy can’t see his 
face. “You see, we’re not, ah, we’re not burdened with 
the sin of Pride here. You see. So, we keep on electing 
God, and no-one yet has been up to it; but they all 
know, and they don’t try to, don’t try to fool them- 
selves that they’ll pick it up eventually. So you see, 
you’re really the best hope we have. You’re new here, 
from a harder and worse place; maybe you have a 
resilience that we’ve lost. I don’t know. It’s worth a 

“The other important question, then,” Kennedy 
says. “What’s your name?” 

“Uh,” the man says. “Uh, Keegan. Jack Keegan.” 

“Pleased to meet you. Jack Keegan,” Kennedy says. 
“My name’s Jack Kennedy.” And as they shake hands, 
he feels the power in his hands and exults. 

T he campaign, in the end, is totally unlike what 
Kennedy has been expecting. He’s been look- 
ing forward, in a strange masochistic kind of 
way, to endless uncomfortable journeys round 
Heaven in a van or an aeroplane, stopping in blurred 
buildings to talk to blurred people in languages 
neither of them understood; but that isn’t how it 
works at all. He goes back to his little room on Eyre 
Square, and sits there, and every so often Jack Keegan 
appears, sometimes giving the impression of having 
people with him, sometimes not. When he has people 
with him they go out together into Galway and wan- 
der around, the people-impressions appearing to gasp 
at the clarity of the square; and then they wander out 
to where the new housing estates start that Kennedy 
never went into, and look at the blurred and increas- 
ingly blurred shapes stretching into the distance, and 
how the grey of the houses blur into the green and 
grey of the hills, and Keegan seems to emphasize just 
what a good start it is they’ve made. As far as Kennedy 
can tell. 

“Are there any other candidates running?” he asks 
one evening. 

“Maybe,” Keegan says, sitting on the bed that Ken- 
nedy still sleepsUn though he knows that he can do 
without sleep entirely if he felt like it. “You appreci- 
ate it’s very hard to tell. Just, when enough people 
believe in you, it’ll happen. It might happen for some- 
one else first. I hope not. If I’m right, we need to get 
you elected as soon as possible, while you still have 
this place crystal clear in your memory.” 

“I’m doing well, though,” Kennedy says, gesturing 
out the window. “Look at it. I mean, it’s almost clearer 
than I ever saw it when I was alive.” 

“Yes,” Keegan says. “Yes, you’re doing really well. 
You’re being really impressive. I mean, we’ve as good 
as got you elected eventually; we just haven’t as good 
as got you elected soon.” But there is a slight hesi- 
tancy about him which puzzles Kennedy. Maybe he’s 
just tired, Kennedy tries to reassure himself; but an 
inconvenient nagging part of his mind reminds him 
that people don’t get tired. Not here. 

T he turning point, in so far as there is one, 
comes one morning. Keegan and some people 
arrive, and for a change the people are well- 
defined, not blurry, wearing old but well-kept work- 
ing clothes, obviously quite proud and even awed to 
be in his presence. No-one has yet asked him about 
the assassination; but, he supposes, everyone here 
has known for 29 years that he didn’t die when the 
people on Earth, thought he did. They go out, mutter- 
ing self-consciously about nothing in particular. Ken- 
nedy prides hiniself that he’s worked out already that 
this is different from a normal election; the aim is not 
to prove yourself one of the people, not to be witty or 
chummy or even approachable, but just to be. To be 
solid and reassuring and well-defined. So he will 
touch people’s shoulders to attract their attention, to 
let them know just how solid even a light brush from 
his fingers can be, to watch the surprise and delight in 
their eyes when they work out what’s touched them. 

This day, they walk out along the main Dublin road 
as they have done so often before, to where the out- 
lines become ill-defined. But this time, as they stare 
out at the housing estates that Kennedy saw so 

interzono July 1993 53 

infrequently that he wasn’t even sure how far away 
they started, he notices that one of the houses is sharp 
and clear. As he stares at it, concentrating hard, trying 
to he absolutely sure that he isn’t imagining things, 
the two houses on either side of it gradually solidify. 
And now there are three perfectly clear and distinct 
houses there, which gradually fade off into the grey- 
green blur on either side. For a moment the group 
looks at them in silence; then, so fast that it can hardly 
be seen moving, a boundary shoots out from the bases 
of the three houses, a sharp dividing line separating 
the green from the grey, firming up the colours of 
both. Below the boundary, the green is textured and 
grass. Above, the grey is reluctantly separating itself 
into houses; but not so much houses as house-con- 
cepts, those kind of houses you see in dreams which 
you know are houses and which always represent the 
same house when you see them but never actually 
look the same twice. And there is the housing estate, 
and the RTC, and the hotel, and the brow of the hill 
beyond them, and Kennedy, delighted and baffled, 
stands there watching them, feeling somehow 
exhausted, as after a great effort, but at the same time 

One of the women who’s come that day turns to 
him, and he can see her face properly for the first time, 
every line on it clear and distinct and sharp. She is so 
joyful she is almost crying, and in her emotion she 
looks almost like Jackie to him. “That’s my house,’’ 
she says. “I lived there. That’s my house. Oh, thank 
you. Thank you.” Embarrassed, almost, by her happi- 
ness, Kennedy stares across to where the houses 
around hers are gradually becoming more and more 
definite. Keegan appears utterly unfazed by the whole 
thing, looking at the houses with a broad grin on his 
face and occasionally throwing I-told-you-so kind of 
looks at Kennedy. Kennedy looks back at the woman. 
There is nothing to say, so he has to say something. 
“Isn’t it wonderful?” he says, throwing his arms wide 
to take in the whole scene. And, though nobody says 
anything, he can feel their agreement and their belief 
coursing through him like blood. 

From that day on, he feels different. There is less of 
a sceptical feel to the people who come to visit him. 
They are still questioning, but there’s an air of suppli- 
cation and belief to it where previously there had 
been desperation and hope against hope. There is no 
boundary, no day on which he is sure of success 
where on the previous day he’d been uncertain, but 
there is a growing certainty. And the population of 
Galway visibly increases around him, and the life of 
Galway visibly increases around him. There is new 
building work going on across the square from him. 
He can go out to the west of the town to walk in the 
hills that he’s never walked in, and they are solid and 
good. All the time he can feel himself being looked to 
by other people for their succour, and it makes him 
feel strong. It reinvigorates him, where even when he 
was alive he’d found it tiring occasionally. 

O ne day, he realizes that he’s known for a long 
time that the election is over and he’s won. 
He goes out into the square, revels in the sun- 
light, and then, risking it for the first time, he closes 
his eyes and opens them in Dublin. He’s visited Dub- 
lin three times in his time in Galway, but now it lies 

around him, crystal clear, the only shifting and ill- 
defined thing the rocks at the bottom of the beautiful 
dear Liffey. 

He closes his eyes again, and opens them in Wash- 
ington, and Lyndon Johnson is there congratulating 
him (never thought he’d make it to Heaven, he thinks 
absently! , and Abraham Lincoln is there congratulat- 
ing him. The Capitol dome softly reflects the snn. The 
railings around the White House are down, and chil- 
dren are picnicking on the grass, as it should be and 
should have been. And then, screwing up his courage 

He closes his eyes again and opens them in Dealey 
Plaza, standing next to the wooden fence on a grassy 
knoll. No traffic is going through the square. But he 
still feels a stab of fear at his heart, an emotion he 
hasn’t felt for - how long now? We’ll do without that, 
he thinks, and nods towards the Book Depository; and 
it is gone, and where it was is a green patch of grass. 

And, standing in the middle of the grass, a silhouet- 
ted figure. I didn’t put that there, he thinks, and a stab 
of fear hits him again. What is it? 

He walks down the knoll, cautiously approaches 
the figure. It’s pitch black, as if permanently in 
shadow. It’s obviously solid, but it gives the impres- 
sion of not being entirely there. Its ontline cuts crisply 
across the grass behind it like a hole. Kennedy didn’t 
put it there. It’s an affront against nature, and an 
affront against his authority. Ten feet from it, he stops, 
suddenly not sure what to do, suddenly frightened. 

Then someone, somewhere, switches on the light 
inside the figure, and the blackness rounds itself out, 
acquires contours and colour, and Kennedy’s heart 
stops for a beat. It’s Oswald, poor deranged Oswald, 
the light of madness lighting np his eyes, the rifle 
clutched in his right hand, the shadows on his head 
ludicronsly stretching away at a different angle from 
the shadows on his body. 

“Lee,” Kennedy says. “Lee.” 

Slowly, almost inhumanly slowly, Oswald’s eyes 
focus on Kennedy. His head turns with a mechanical 
smoothness. This is not Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy 
thinks. And it does not belong here, whatever it is. It 
does not belong here. He looks again at Oswald, the 
crisp black outline that still surrounds him, the bitter 
expression on his face. This is wrong. This is wrong, 
in a world where I have made everything right, he 
thinks. I don’t know what to do. 

Oswald, now clearly looking at Kennedy, makes no 
further move. His face doesn’t soften. He appears not 
even to be breathing. His hand firmly grasps the rifle, 
but makes no attempt to move it. Although his expres- 
sion remains fixed, Kennedy suddenly sees through 
the bitterness in it to the accusation below. 

“Lee,” he says again. Oswald doesn’t react in any 
way. Kennedy stares back at him. “Lee, I forgive you 
for what you tried to do to me.” 

Oswald stares back for a moment, then explodes 
into life. Kennedy blinks, and there Oswald is, now 
nine feet tall, still outlined in black, the sun directly 
behind him casting his shadow over Kennedy. The 
heat of his anger begins to scorch the grass below him. 
“You /uck,” he says, and takes one step forward and 
aims his fist at Kennedy. 

The blow comes so fast that Kennedy doesn’t know 
how to react; all he knows is that he now finds him- 

54 interzone July 1993 

self ten feet away from Oswald again, standing, not 
physically hurt at all but feeling a panic rise within 
him. I don’t know what to do here, he thinks, and then 
he sees that Oswald’s fist is bloodstained, and it leaps 
to full prominence in his view; it’s as if it’s right there 
in front of him, three feet long, dripping blood and 
flesh, and now he feels as though his ribs have broken, 
and now he’s twenty, thirty feet away again and 
whole again. And Oswald turns to him, his teeth 
bared, his pointed flesh-tearing carnivore’s teeth, and 
Kennedy closes his eyes and is in Galway. 

H e sits in Eyre Square, staring at the sun and 
the new buildings. People flow round him, 
looking for his support; but he finds himself 
unable to give it. He’s deeply shocked and uncertain, 
and he’s retreated into himself, and he can’t feel the 
presence of the others as he has before. He sits there, 
feeling the people ebbing away from him, feeling the 
collapse of their belief, feeling it spread away from 
him throughout everyone who has trusted him; and 
eventually all there is to feel is cold and lonely. So he 
sits in the square, feeling cold and lonely, and at about 
five that afternoon a crack opens in the sky in front of 
him and Oswald’s giant hands, poking through, grab 
at its edges and tear it open until it’s large enough for 
Oswald to step through. 

“Lee,” Kennedy says. 

“You fuck,” Oswald says, towering over him. “You 
fuck. You don’t change.” 

“I do!” Kennedy says. “I have!” 

“You don’t know what you’re doing,” Oswald says. 
“Are you here to remember the real world for people? 
What a pathetic thing to do in Heaven. Sit around all 
day reliving your past life. You pandering fuck. And 
you don’t even get that right. What’s this new build- 
ing doing here?” He gestures behind him. “What’s the 
cinema in the centre of town?” 

“There was always — ” 

“No there wasn’t. You’re pathetic. You ran America 
deluding the country that you were different. You 
even fooled me for a bit. You fooled America that you 
were dead. Now you are, and you still can’t stop try- 
ing to fool people. You can’t help it. You pathetic 
fuck. There’s no helping you.” He raises the rifle, then 
lowers it slightly. Kennedy stares down its barrel. 
“Every woman looks like Jackie, don’t they? Or 
Oswald’s voice takes on a nasty, sarcastic tone 
Marilyn. Things look clearer than they ever did when 
you were alive, don’t they? That’s because you’re 
making it all up. You don’t know anything but you 
can’t admit it to yourself, so you make it up. You fuck. 
You deserved this long ago.” And this time, when he 
raises the rifle, he fires, and suddenly Kennedy sits on 
the seat with his midriff peppered with shot and his 
spine broken, unable to move and unable to die. “I got 
you eventually, you bastard,” Oswald says. “1 got you 

This isn’t right! Kennedy thinks stupidly as the 
agony shoots through him. This isn’t right! I’ve saved 
the world! I’ve become God! This can’t be happening! 
But he can already feel the people slipping away from 
him, can see, with a paradoxical clarity, the hills 
becoming blurred and blending with the sky. And 
now he can recognize the new building on the square 
as the Book Depository, towering over everything 

interzone July 1993 55 

else, the only remaining clear thing in a hazy, vanish- 
ing world. 

Keegan is sitting beside him, and Kennedy turns his 
eyes to him and knows. “God,” he says. Keegan stares 
at him, his eyes infinitely gentle. “God. You were 
never dead. You just played the same trick on me that 
I played on the rest of the world.” 

Keegan speaks softly, compassionately. “Be one 
with me. Let this delusion go.” 

“Is this a delusion?” Kennedy asks, looking 
towards the Book Depository, sitting on the back seat 
of the open-topped limousine, moving painfully 
slowly through the cheering pink blur of the crowds. 
“Maybe. You wanted to wear down my pride, didn’t 
you? To see if I’d learnt humility while I was in Gal- 
way? Well, I hadn’t.” 

“Reject this kind of reasoning,” Keegan says. The 
limousine turns the corner. “This is centred on your- 
self. You think you can comprehend my works, the 
works of the Universe? Just accept me. Lose your grip 
on yourself. Become one with me and everyone.” 
“Yes, you got me there,” Kennedy says. “Still 
egotistical Jack Kennedy, that’s me.” The first shot 
rings out behind them. “You beat me. You beat me.” 

“It’s not a question of beating,” Keegan says. “I want 
you to be one with me. Decide now, and you will 
never have to decide again.” 

“But,” Kennedy says. All his life he’s been a man of 
action, a man of decision, a man who sees through a 
problem to a solution instantly. Up to now. Now he’s 
in mid-thought when the bullet hits, no decision yet 
made, and for a brief instant everything is pain- 

William Whyte was born in Belfast in 1968, and later 
studied theoretical physics at Trinity College, Dublin. 
He now lives in Oxford, where he is “currently sitting 
on a novel which is in the middle of revisions which 
it may well not find its way out of again.” The above 
is his first published short story, and he adds: “I’ve 
never actually lived in Galway, but it’s probably my 
favourite place in the world.” 



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56 interzone July 1993 

Alan E. Nourse 

An Annotated Bibliography 
Graham Andrews 

O ne of science fiction’s underrated authors, 
Alan E. Nourse died of heart failure on 19th 
July 1992, at his home near Thorp, Washing- 
ton State. F.M. Busby (with Charles N. Brown) wrote 
an obituary of Nourse for Locus (September 1992), 
and Avram Davidson contributed a heartfelt Appreci- 

Alan E(dward) Nourse - pronounced “nurse” - was 
born on 11th August 1928 in Des Moines, Iowa. Bet- 
ween 1946 and 1948, he served as a Hospitalman 
Third Class in the U.S. Navy. He received his B.A. (in 
biological science) from Rutgers University in 1951 
and took his medical degree (1955) at the University 
of Pennsylvania. 

Nourse wrote his way through medical school, 
beginning with “High Threshold” (Astounding Sci- 
ence-Fiction, March 1951). Trouble on Titan was 
published by Winston in 1954, as one of their “Ad- 
ventures in Science Fiction” juvenile novels. A 
British edition followed in 1956, from Hutchinson, 
and the book has since been translated into German, 
Italian and Japanese. 

Like many another American sf author (Philip K. 
Dick, A.E. van V ogt — even Daniel F. Galouye) , Nourse 
was much more highly-thought-of abroad than in the 
USA. Probably because be wrote “ . . . what is generally 
referred to as juvenile fiction. This categorization is 
caused by the fact that his protagonists are usually 
young people, and by no means indicates that adults 
can’t enjoy his work.” 

The above quotation has been timely ripped from A 
Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction by Baird Searles, 
Martin Last, Beth Meacham and Michael Franklin 
(Avon, 1979). It’s a bit damning-with-faint-praise. 
However, the ostensibly “juvenile” novels that 
Nourse wrote for McKay stand favourable (at least) 
comparison with any of the Heinlein/Scribner vol- 

Nourse hadn’t written a science-fiction novel for 
nearly ten years, but he’d been hard at work on non- 
fiction books like The Elk Hunt (1986), Radio Astro- 
nomy (1990) and Sexually Transmitted Diseases 
(1992). He also prodnced several Awful Warnings for 
children, e.g. Herpes (1985), AIDS (1986: revised edi- 
tion, 1989), and Teens Guide to AIDS Prevention 
(1990). Plus a monthly medical-advice column for 
Good Housekeeping. 

All told, Nourse wrote 39 volumes of (mostly med- 
ical) non-fiction. Astronomy was his “second string”: 
Nine Planets (Harper, 1960: revised edition, 1970) is 
a guided tour of the Solar System that can still put Pat- 
rick Moore to shame. He deployed his professional 

expertise in two mainstream novels: Junior Intern 
(1955) and The Practice (1978). 

Bnt Nonrse will be more fondly remembered for his 
11 science-fictioon novels and 50-odd shorter works. 
He favonred the well-knit plot, laced with swift 
action, and told in a plain style. Not surprisingly, 
most of his stories have a medical slant; somewhere 
between the hearty melodramatics of “Med Service” 
(Murray Leinster) and the detailed exobiology of 
“Sector General” (James White). 

Trouble on Titan (Winston, 1954) 

• Above-average first novel; welJ-above-average 
juvenile. “Tuck Benedict was a raw and nnofficial 
recruit to the Security Gommission . . . who guarded 
the peace of the Solar System. But chance gave h im 
the seemingly impossible task of preventing an armed 
uprising on Titan - the Saturnian moon that was 
small in size but absolutely vital to the preservation of 
Earth’s civilization” (from blurb to Lancer edition, 

A Man Obsessed (Ace, 1955; doubled with The Last 
Planet, by Andre Norton); expanded as The Mercy 
Men (McKay, 1968) 

Nourse’s first “adult” novel. Jeff Meyer’s hunt for 
the man who killed his father leads him inside the 
Hoffman Medical Genter, where he must apply to be a 
Mercy Man. “The Mercy Men are medical mercenaries 
...desperate, derelict human beings who have sold 
their brains to science in the hope that if they survive 
with some degree of sanity, they can return to the nor- 
mal world with a fortune” (Kirkus Reviews). 

Rocket to Limbo (McKay, 1957) 

Novel; magazine version: Satellite, October 1957. 
RETURNED! . . . Lars Heldrigsson was fresh out of the 
Colonial Service Academy and his first assignment 
was a milk-run to Vega aboard the Ganymede. Not a 
very exciting trip, except that the ship’s commander, 
Walter Fox, had explored and opened up more col- 
ony-worlds than any other man alivg!” (from blurb to 
Ace edition, 1959). A juvenile (surprise! surprise!). 

The Invaders Are Coming! with J.A. Meyer (Ace, 

Novel; magazine version: Amazing Stories, May 
1958 (as “The Sign of the Tiger”). J.A. Meyer? . . . “For 
a century America had been a securely isolated power 
without crisis, turmoil — or progress. Then ... super- 
security measures were shattered by the theft of 

interzone July 1993 57 

fissionable material from an atomic power plant. 
When it leaked out that the thieves had been invaders 
from outer space — alien monsters — chaos reigned” 
(hlurh). Eat your heart out, Eric Frank Russell! Well, 
maybe not. 

Scavengers in Space (McKay, 1959) 

Novel; magazine version: Amazing Stories, Sep- 
tember 1959 (as “Gold in the Sky”). “Deals with the 
quest of the Hunter brothers for a mysterious bonanza 
located somewhere in the asteroid belt. The dangers 
and details of asteroid mining are carefully outlined, 
and the bonanza itself proves to be an open gate to a 
wider future in the stars” [Cleveland Press ) . The tech- 
nical background is fully equal to that given in Poul 
Anderson’s Tales of the Flying Mountains (1970). 

Star Surgeon (McKay, 1960) 

Novel; magazine version: Amazing Stories, 

December 1959. Dal Timgar, from the planet Garvia, 
is the first off-worlder to qualify as a doctor on protec- 
tionist Hospital Earth. “But can an alien really prac- 
tice medicine as well as a human? And will the 
humans let him?” (from blurb to Ace edition, 1986). A 
laudable attack on bigotry, unfairly neglected. Not to 
be confused with the James White Star Surgeon (Bal- 
lantine, 1963). 

Tiger by the Tail (McKay, 1961); UK title: Beyond 
Infinity (Dobson, 1962) 

Nourse’s first collection. Gontents (outstanding 
stories marked *): “Tiger by the Tail”; “Nightmare 
Brother”*; “PRoblem”; “The Goffin Gure”*; “Bright- 
side Crossing”*; “The Native Soil”; “Love Thy 
Vimp”*; “Letter of the Law”; “Family Resemblance”*. 

Raiders From the Rings (McKay, 1962) 

Novel. “The underground people of Earth... had 
sent a mighty armada into space, rushing in lethal 
orbit towards Mars. The Spacers - still really Earth- 
men themselves - were poised for the counter-blow 
. . .Now Ben Trefon understood that in the Black Belt 
of Power bequeathed to him by his father rested the 
final hope of the human race!” (from blurb to Pyramid 
edition, 1963). A delinquent juvenile. 

The Counterfeit Man (McKay, 1963) 

Collection. Contents (outstanding stories marked *): 
“The Counterfeit Man”*; “The Canvas Bag”; “An 
Ounce of Cure”*; “The Dark Door”; “Meeting of the 
Board”; “Circus”; “My Friend Bobby”*; “The Link”; 
“Image of the Gods”; “The Expert Touch”*; “Second 

The Universe Between (McKay, 1965) 

. Fix-up novel. Expanded from “High Threshold” 
(Astounding, March 1951) and “The Universe Bet- 
ween” (Astounding, September 1951). “To save 
Earth, Bob Benedict must venture once more into the 
invisible dangerous world of the Thresholders. If he 
fails to return - sane - Earth, and all those who inhabit 
the planet, will be hurled into oblivion” (from blurb 
to Paperback Library edition, 1967). 

Psi High and Others (McKay, 1967) 

Fix-up novel. Prologue & Epilogue plus: Part 1, 

58 interzone July 1993 

“The Martyr” [Fantastic Universe, January 1957); 
Part 2, “Psi High” (original); Part 3, “Mirror, Mirror” 
(Fantastic, June 1960). “While the Watchers from the 
Galactic Federation await the verdict - freedom or 
quarantine for Earth - they review man’s reactions to 
three past crises ... Intelligent postulates; skilful 
story-telling which challenges, entertains (Kirkus 

Rx for Tomorrow (McKay, 1971) 

Collection. Contents (outstanding stories marked *): 
“Symptomaticus Medicus”; “Rx”; “Contamination 
Crew”*; “In Sheep’s Clothing”*; “A Gift for Num- 
bers”; “Free Agent”*; “The Last House Call”*; “Grand 
Rounds”; “Bramble Bush”; “Heir Apparent”; 

The Bladerunner (McKay, 1971) 

Nourse’s best novel, now eclipsed by Ridley Scott’s 
Blade Runner (1982) - the film version of Philip K. 
Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Rights 
to the title only were sold “in perpetuity throughout 
the universe.” Curiously, William S. Burroughs had 
already adapted Nourse’s novel as the booklet Blade- 
runner (A Movie) in 1979. “Billy Gimp was a blade- 
runner... one of the shadowy procurers of illegal 
medical supplies for the nightmare world of the med- 
ical black market. Doc was a skilled surgeon at a 
government-operated hospital by day... and an 
underground physician by night, providing health 
care for the multitudes who could not — or would not 
- qualify for legal medical assistance” (from blurb to 
Ballantine edition, 1975). 

The Fourth Horseman (Harper & Row, 1983) 

...of the Apocalypse. Novel. “Wilderness Patrol 
Officer Pamela Tate, scouting in the mountains of 
Washington (State), sees and touches a ground squir- 
rel in the dusty path, blood trickling from its mouth. 
Forty-eight hours later she lies dead at her campsite, 
covered in mysterious welts and bruises ... A killer is 
loose . . .Yersinia Pestis. Plague” (from blurb to Pinna- 
cle edition, 1985). 

Uncollected stories by Nourse include “Marley’s 
Chain” [If, September 1952), “Sixty-Year Extension” 
[Planet Stories, May 1954), and “The Compleat Con- 
sumators” (F & SF, April 1964). Nourse was working 
on several stories before he died, so the bibliography 
is (I hope) not yet concluded. And some publisher 
should bring out a commemorative Best of. . .anthol- 

Earlier annotated bibliographies in this occasional 
series were devoted to: 

C.J. Cherryh (issue 55); Barry N. Malzberg (issue 61); 
R.A. Laflferty (issue 64); Bob Shaw (issue 67); and 
Barrington J. Bayley (issue 71). 


Terminal Rocks 
John elute 

S o here I am sitting at the screen in 
springtime, thinking it won’t be 
that bad, thinking just another book, 
thinking do it, just do it. But, like Rob- 
bie the Robot, like a very small man in 
a very hot robot costume going snap 
crackle pop, I cannot unlock the jaw, 
cannot lire the pen. I am blank. It is as 
though The Gripping Hand (Pocket 
Books, $22] by Larry Niven and Jerry 
Pournelle, a novel which has since 
been published in the UK as The Moat 
Around Murcheson’s Eye (HarperCol- 
lins, £14.99), comes with a virus 
whose function is to ensure that read- 
ing the hook wipes the reader. And 
now that I have managed to finish The 
Gripping Hand, I sit at the screen for a 
year and a day in springtime, and am 
perfectly blank, and only slowly, as 
the wind blows the sand off the welts, 
do a few memories of the experience, 
like stigmata, begin to tickle the inner 
eye. Mein Fiihrer I can talk. 

It might be a good idea to begin with 
the strange small puzzle of the alter- 
nate titles. Over the two decades they 
took to gestate this sequel to The Mote 
in God’s Eye (1974), it appears that 
Niven and Pournelle consistently 
referred to the draft manuscript as 
“The Moat Around Murcheson’s Eye,” 
and that it was only in the months 
before publication that someone in the 
States actually read the book and 
decided, low-life pun-avoidance 
aside, that there was a pretty good 
reason to go with a title like The Grip- 
ping Hand, or with almost anything 
else that might be seen as in some 
sense relevant to the text. Readers of 
the first book will remember that the 
main problem at its conclusion is how 
to restrain the highly inventive, highly 
technologized Modes - an alien race 
also characterized (1) by its division 
into a variety of specialized forms, (2) 
by its inability to control its own 
breeding, and (3) by having three 
hands, the third para-binary-logic one 
being the hand that grips - from escap- 
ing the home Mote System and infest- 
ing the galaxy. But the only way to 
leave the Mote System is by instan- 
taneous starship travel between 
“points” - doubletalk lesions in space- 
time which pop in and out of existence 
whenever a newly created star rejigs 
the configurations of the blah-blah of 
the whatsit, or a plot needs gingering - 
and the only point-to-point connec- 
tion theoretically available to the 
Modes leads directly to Murcheson’s 
Eye, which the human Empire has 
blockaded, with what might be called 
a Moat, which keeps the aliens penned 

The Gripping Hand begins about 
two decades after the blockage has 
begun, and we are soon assured - en 
passant, because the first hundred 
pages of the novel have nothing to do 
with the main story - that the Moat has 
held perfectly well over that period. 

But we soon learn that that time of sec- 
urity - and any relevance the working 
title might have had at some early- 
draft stage - has passed, because it 
turns out that a new star is aborning 
nearby, and when it comes into exis- 
tence (which it soon does) it will 
immediately create a new point-to- 
point for the Moties to take advantage 
of. Simultaneously, it turns out that 
human biologists - somewhere Brian 
Stableford has remarked on how 
extraordinarily convenient it was for 
Niven/Pournelle that none of the 
numerous Motie castes specializes in 
genetic engineering - have worked out 
a way of controlling the Motie sex 
changes which trigger the breed-or-die 
imperative which has so frightened 
the increasingly sclerotic Empire, 
which is actually run by an Emperor 
and an aristocracy-by-birth composed 
mostly of ass-tight WASP males and 
their icy spouses and their utterly 
appalling children, all of whom occa- 
sionally indulge in moments of 
tweedy sauce but all of whom exude, 
when it’s called for, the profoundly 
spartan charisma natural to any 20- 
year-old scion called from his yacht 
(this does actually happen) to defend 
an unearned income. And all of them 
know the true secret of being rich: that 
it allows you to use the time of others. 

B ut stop, stop right here. We begin 
to drift. We begin to feel mind- 
wiped. We must not talk about how 
Niven/Pournelle envision the future 
course of the human race, the desert 
sanctities of hierarchy, the Constable 
Plod ass-backward stiffnecks who 
embody the military ethos, but stop. 
Back to the story. The moat around 
Murcheson’s Eye is irrelevant to the 
current book - and is hardly therefore 
mentioned or visited within it - 
because the Moties are about to dodge 
around it. But the threat of unfettered 
Motie breeding is also a thing of the 
past. So. There is no Moat and no need 
for one. There is, in other words, no 

What does happen, happens in vast 
dithers all over the map, and the two 
schematic charts of the mise en scene 
which appear in the American edition 
endpapers are -given Niven and Pour- 
nelle’s oldest-member habit of telling 
what tale they have to tell out of the 
side of each other’s mouths - abso- 
lutely essential for any reader who 
wants to understand the physical 

relationship between (say) Vermin 
City, Mote Prime, New Crazy Eddie 
Point, Mote Gamma, the Curdle, Lead- 
ing Gamma Trojans “Byzantium,” 
Murcheson’s Eye, New Caledonia Sys- 
tem, et cetera. The last half of the book 
consists almost entirely of a sequence 
of jigsawing military actions in which 
these and other locations are visited or 
fought over or dodged, almost cer- 
tainly because there is nothing left for 
Tweedledum and Tweedledee to do 
with The Gripping Hand but agree to 
have a battle - given the fact that all the 
issues it deals with were solved off- 
stage long before any of us got a look in. 

Mixed up in these military actions, 
it is possible to trace the tale of the 
coming-of-age of one brave aristocratic 
lass who finds a hubby while simul- 
taneously conveying to various Motie 
factions news of the sex-and-birth- 
control breakthrough, just in time to 
stop a galactic war. This may all be 
truly and deeply silly - it’s rather as 
though one were to picture Princess Di 
conveying the only proof of a cure for 
AIDS, on foot, through the Sahara, into 
the heart of war-torn central Africa, 
arriving just in time to resolve a dozen 
genocidal tribal conflicts, betroth 
Quatermain and save the planet - but 
there are some kinetic pleasures in the 
jigsaws of the trip, pleasures unfortu- 
nately rather muted for UK readers, as 
the edition available to them manages 
not only to retain the irrelevant work- 
ing title but also drops the maps. The 
endpapers are blank. The tale is inde- 
cipherable. This seems less than 

But even the US edition fails to pre- 
vent mind-wipe, the kind of feeling 
one guesses Ronald Reagan’s execu- 
tive staff may have experienced after 
he told them two bumblebees in 
beanies had just sold him SDL But 
maybe this isn’t entirely fair. It may 
not be entirely to its authors’ discredit 
that The Gripping Hand seems palsied 
with inattention, that it grips upon 
nothing but the detritus of a tale 
already told. It may be the case that 
Niven and Pournelle put off complet- 
ing the book because - being cognitive 
guys - they had already argued them- 
selves through the other side of any 
pretext that there was a genuine novel 
to write, that — as far as making any- 
thing of this particular sequel went - 
they had lost their grip. In which case, 
the publication of the book is a confes- 
sion. And each reader is its priest. 

interzone July 1993 59 

A fter the airlessness of the empty 
.church, reading High Steel (Tor, 
$18.95) hy Jack C. Haldeman II and 
Jack Dann was like breathing pure oxy- 
gen. The first quarter of the hook was 
originally published as Echoes of 
Thunder (1991) by the same publisher, 
a circumstance not recorded in the 
proof copy of the full text, though 
undoubtedly a full reckoning will be 
provided readers of the final version. 
This initial text, which better fits the 
title High Steel than the full book does, 
carries its 22nd-century American 
Indian protagonist from his dwindling 
reservation into forced labour for an 
autonomous corporation in Earth 
orbit, where he works the high steel, 
building a new research habitat. But 
John Stranger is no ordinary Indian 
labourer. He is - loosely - an appren- 
tice shaman; he has a superhuman 
capacity to locate himself in shifting 
matrices; and the corporation which 
owns him wishes - though Leighton, 
its ultimate boss, does not really know 
how - to exploit him. At the end of the 
novella, Stranger has saved his reser- 
vation from orbital destruction, and is 
poised to ascend labyrinths of revela- 
tion. Echoes of Thunder, in other 
words, ends in a slingshot; and one 
might well worry about the capacity of 
any continuation to sustain the pace 
and lift. 

In the event, there is nothing to 
worry about. High Steel may not be 
much devoted to the exploration of 
original ideas, and reads at times like 
an echo chamber in which current sf 
turns and tropes are sampled and 
transformed; but in everything it 
attempts to accomplish it is a remark- 
able success. What makes the book so 
intriguing, I think, is its authors’ con- 
centration on narrative. A musical 
analogy comes to view. Where Niven/ 
Pournelle - like Ludwig Spohr - 
belches the past out as a repeating and 
terminal gas, Haldeman/Dann - like 
maybe Arnold Schoenberg in one of 
his later and more forgiving scores, 
though lacking of course his transfor- 
mative originality - subjects the past to 
an intensive and non-reiterative 
scrutiny. In High Steel, as in Schoen- 
berg, nothing is said more than once. 

The high steel routines themselves, 
once we’re beyond the end of the 
novella, slip immediately into retro- 
spect. Leighton, first perceived as a 
tinplate ogre, becomes a Dickian tor- 
mented magus caught in the coils of a 
savage family romance. Various 
imagined futures — from hard sf 
through Cyberpunk - intersect en pas- 
sant in narrative sequences of 
astonishing equipoise and thrust. 
There are echoes, once in a while, from 
outside sf: Louise Erdrich arguably 
supplies a bit of the South Dakota 
Indian episteme. But most of the book 
is a predator, like a cat with blazing 
eyes, gorging on the good meat of 

60 interzone July 1993 

genre: Dick, William Gibson, Greg 
Bear (for transcendental AI- 
shamanism shticks here very suc- 
cinctly conveyed), Joe Haldeman, 
many others. There are aliens, and Jup- 
iter, and FTL, and Einstein the AI god, 
and ghost dances, and marrying out, 
and New England School of Ethical 
Romance sehnsucht a la Richard Grant 
and Go, and a kitchen sink. And it 
spins high and dry and off the end of 
tbe last word. It is most highly recom- 

I t has been the ihisfortune of this 
reviewer to see the worst of Tom 
Holt while remembering, as through a 
knotted scrim, the best; but luck turns. 
Here Comes the Sun (Orbit, £14.99), 
after several novels which read against 
the grain of the man’s real drift, like 
fingernails down a blackboard, pre- 
sents Tom Holt out of the closet, Tom 
Holt the bracing surreal misanthropist 
whose vision of things is as bleak as 
Douglas Adams’s, and at times as 

The first sign of new life in the cur- 
rent book is the activity of the lan- 
guage: jokes; turns of phrases which 
speed on after doing their job and don’t 
sit preening; several examples of the 
sort of martian imagery that makes you 
see things fresh (the heroine stares at 
her blank VDU, which is “staring back 
at her with a sort of blank look, as if it 
had been sniffing glue’’); the occa- 
sional genuine metaphor. The entire 
book, in fact, reads like a figures of 
speech gone haywire, taking off in a 
dozen directions from the essential 
premise being that the universe is 
operated like British Rail, by a staff 
which, though supernatural, has been 
attenuated by cuts and thatcherite 
entropy. It is not a very reasonable pre- 
mise to run a novel on, and Holt makes 
no attempt to reassure his readers that 
his tale is meant to cohere in any cod- 
naturalistic manner. It is as though he 
had not only bitten the bullet of the 
inherent absurdity of the world and 
the tale that winds it up, but had 
learned how to utter that sense of 
absurdity in the light of day. 

Here Comes the Sun is, in fact, quite 
remarkably remorseless; and its con- 
cluding passages give off a sense of 
deep and profound cynicism: as the 
novel ends, the typical Holt heroine -a 
nurse-like prig with laddered stock- 
ings and a Doris Day glare and nary a 
thought of sex in the chill of her 1950s 
skull - sorts the universe into an 
infinity of Milton Keynes, and rests. 
This is theodicy as horrorshow. This is 
comedy with a very wide grin. 

I n the vast whang-bang avalanche of 
the telling of Ian M. Banks’s newest 
sf novel, a small clear voice can be 
heard, now and then, through the clat- 
ter of whinging-it. It is a voice of utter 
melancholy, and what it says speaks 

the truth of Against a Dark Back- 
ground (Orbit, £15.99), a truth also 
hinted at in the demolition derby 
shenanigans which occupy the hun- 
dreds of pages - quite a few of them, it 
must be said, otiose - of the surface 
tale. We are not, this time, in anything 
like the Culture universe. The Golte- 
rian solar system - as it’s pretty com- 
plicated, a map might have been very 
useful - exists in terrifying isolation 
from the rest of the galaxy; and 
although Banks does seem to imply 
that it is occupied by human stock, and 
does give (conflicting) evidence that 
civilization on Goiter has existed for 
only ten thousand (or is it thirty 
thousand?) years, there is no sense 
anywhere of a shared past. If there is a 
Gulture, it is impossibly far away. Goi- 
ter and its stock are ten thousand light 
years from home; and neither are 
doing well. The planet, and its mates 
in the system, are seamed by millennia 
of use; and humanity, after testing to 
destruction, time and again, every pos- 
sible regimen of governance, seems 
just as deeply and profoundly soiled 
by over-use as its battered habitats. 

The story that slams through the sur- 
face of the book is a hunt-the-searcher 
caper tale, and for a hundred pages or 
so seems destined to cash out in the 
usual way: to save her life and to run 
down a couple of artefacts, the heroine 
is forced to reassemble the combat 
team with which she had years before 
been virally linked into a highly 
efficient symbiotic fighting machine; 
once reunited, the team performs an 
initial caper; travels around the solar 
system while dodging the fanatical 
Huhsz who have taken out a Hunting 
Passport on the heroine because the 
continued existence of her family 
(they think) blocks the appearance of 
the Messiah as the decamillennium 
approaches; searches for and eventu- 
ally finds the Lazy Gun which speaks 
inside the heroine’s head enticing 
words about the end of the universe; 
and the book ends. 

But that is not, of course, the real 
story. To begin with, all the capers go 
wrong.. The dirty-dozen “synchro- 
neurobondees,” despite the viral sym- 
biosis which is supposed to make 
them work as one, bungle every action 
in which they become involved. The 
Lazy Gun itself, and the other weapons 
and artefacts the team runs across in 
almost 500 pages of head-banging 
rataplan, are all MacGuffins. Every 
action taken on the surface of the book 
leads to dust and derision; ends in 
futile pain, or apathy, or death. The 
heroine - this is a plot-turn which is 
very broadly signalled from the begin- 
ning of the book — has been betrayed 
from the first by the family member 
who seems most eager to help her. His 
reasons for this course of action - and 
the flashback sequences which illus- 
trate the family-romance etiology of 

his treachery - are reminiscent of the 
revelations at the core of Use of 
Weapons (1990), which remains 
Banks’s best single sf book. The 
heroine’s companions go through hell. 
The world declines. On the last page of 
all - it is the only time she gives off a 
Munchkin Persson whiff - she acceler- 
ates away from us on a monowheel, 
after armageddon-like scenes, across 
salt flats, into limbo. 

If the story were not clear enough - if 
it weren’t already clear that Against a 
Dark Background is intended to pilot 
itself into terminal rocks, and that the 
title itself reflects the lack of any star in 
the sky, literal or figurative - then 
there are, as I said earlier, a few 
moments of repose, where the same 
message sidles into the heart, more 
deeply it may be. The central image of 
the book is perhaps that of the merry- 
go-round which dominates a huge 
room in the family mansion during the 
early childhood of the heroine - her 
name is Sharrow, and unusually for 
Banks her name can be pronounced. 
One of Sharrow’s central memories — it 
is returned to more than once — is of 
riding the merry-go-round on a life- 
sized model of a “fierce-looking 
extinct flightless bird nearly three 
metres high with a serrated bill and 
huge claw-feet.” 

Sometimes she fell asleep on the fabul- 
ous bird, and travelled for a long time 
through the warm air of the ballroom, 
between the enormous mirrors on one 
wall and the closed curtains of the win- 
dows facing them on the other. 

She preferred the curtains closed 
because it was winter and outside lay the 
snow, blank and cold and soft. 

It is the only solace offered any- 
where in any page of the book. Against 
a Dark Background has mirrors galore, 
most of them shattered. But in the end, 
the noise is naked. There is no curtain 
from the blank. 

(John elute] 

God Games 
Paul J. McAuley 

P aul Park’s The Cult of Loving 
Kindness (Grafton, £4.99) brings to 
an end The Starbridge Chronicles, the 
most wonderfully strange sf trilogy of 
the late ’80s. There is a hint of roman- 
fleuve in that title, and Chronicles is 
indeed powered along by a sweeping 
narrative and an abiding sense of 
destiny. It is set on a world somewhere 
near the edge of the Galaxy but called 
Earth, on which seasons last 20,000 
days. All of history, all of society, is 
dominated by this great slow turning. 
We are reminded at once of Brian 
Aldiss’s Helliconia, but Park uses East- 
ern rather than Western traditions to 

underpin his narrative. The wheel is 
not Vico’s cycle of history, but the 
wheel of Karma. Hell is not forever, but 
merely one of the nine other planets of 
the system, through which all but the 
chosen few must pass in a cycle of 
rebirth before reaching Paradise; and 
Paradise is an eccentric moon which at 
one time or another passes close to all 
of the planets. 

Science fiction is rife with borrowed 
exoticism, in which the trappings of 
some non- Western culture are filched 
to furnish an alien world. Park clearly 
derives much material from first-hand 
experience of India and the Far East, 
but it is made rich and strange by his 
inventive use of estrangement and 
ambiguity, an unsettling mix of the 
alien and the commonplace, and crafty 
blending of technology and religion. 
Things may or may not be what they 
seem; sugar rain, for instance, turns 
out to be a kind of gasoline which can 
transform foetuses into monsters; 
there are butane lighters and cigarettes 
(which may be either actual butane 
lighters and cigarettes, or their func- 
tional equivalents), but also poisonous 
slugs and parasitic butterflies; the sur- 
face temperature of a particular hell is 
not recorded in a sacred text but can be 
measured using telescope and thermo- 
couple. More than this. Park’s narra- 
tive is informed with a dark human 
comedy of a kind rare in sf, and he 
writes like a recording angel. In a few 
paragraphs, he can conjure a whole 
city or a century of history with a verve 
that takes the breath away. 

The first two books. Soldiers of 
Paradise and Sugar Rain, recorded the 
arrival of spring in the year 00016, and 
its effect on the city state of Charn - in 
particular, the revolutionary over- 
throw of the Starbridges, who ruled by 
tyrannical application of caste-system 
and religion to ensure survival of their 
peoples through the long winter. Now 
it is just past midsummer, and religion 
is returning in the form of the Cult of 
Loving Kindness, which has its mud- 
dled roots in the martyrdom of Mad 
Prince Abu Starbridge, a character 
from the first two books. An anti- 
monial (the peaceful, pedantic anti- 
monials may be the natives of this 
world, and the humans settlers, or 
perhaps vice versa: like much else, it is 
up to the reader to decide) customs 
officer returns to his native village, 
and on the way is given newborn 
human twins, brother and sister, to 
care for. They are raised wild and 
strange by the antimonials, and by the 
time they reach adolescence civiliza- 
tion is encroaching on the village, as 
more and more land is being turned to 
agricultural use in a frantic dash to fill 
the granaries for winter. Brother and 
sister become entangled in the Cult of 
Loving Kindness, and willingly or not 
take on the mythic qualities of the 
murdered last bishop of Charn and her 

antimonial lover: a reenactment of this 
tragedy is needed to cement the power 
of the Cult. 

The Cult of Loving Kindness is of a 
smaller scale than its predecessors, yet 
within its intimate compass Park pays 
off all accrued debts: it is rife with 
echoes and reflections. The thread 
which runs through all three novels is 
that history will be, and individuals 
can do little to influence it. Fate, like 
the slow turning seasons, is inevitable, 
and only those characters which 
accept it achieve enlightenment. In a 
genre where history all too usually is 
transformed by heroes. Park’s achieve- 
ment, which is considerable, is to 
make this believable in one of the most 
gorgeous and consistent feats of 
worldbuilding ever seen in sf. 

I n Orson Scott Card’s series Home- 
coming (or rather, one of his series: 
there are so many I’m beginning to lose 
track of them, and expect a final vol- 
ume called something like The Xeno- 
cidal Homecoming of Prentice Alvin), 
history is also determinant, but 
specifically so, for it is God Who is cal- 
ling the shots. We have been delivered, 
like Moses on the mountain, of the sec- 
ond volume. The Call of Earth 
(Legend, £8.99), in which the narrative 
threads of the first are plucked from 
midair and expertly manipulated 
towards closure. 

God is a computer, the Oversoul. He 
has been orbiting the colony world 
Harmony for forty million years, keep- 
ing the peace by stopping people 
thinking about military technology, 
and is beginning to fret that He may be 
wearing out. Hoping to petition for 
renewal by Earth’s Keeper, He has 
been manipulating one family to set up 
an expedition to return to Earth. 

Families are a big deal in Scott Card 
novels, and he is an expert in delineat- 
ing their social dynamics, their un- 
thinking loyalties and petty jealousies. 
Loyalty in particular, for the motiva- 
tion of almost every character, when 
put to the test, devolves to an almost 
Victorian fanaticism when it comes to 
duty, an easy but not entirely convinc- 
ing way to manipulate characters 
(there’s not one character here that 
isn’t manipulated to a greater or lesser 
degree, but far too many of them are 
manipulated in the same way). In the 
city of Basilica, families are more com- 
plex than most, since its society is mat- 
riarchal, and women have children by 
temporary contract with more than 
one husband. More was made of this in 
the first book, for here the women are 
locked in their houses (because of their 
power, rather than because of lack of it, 
but it amounts to the same thing) and it 
is men who make most of the running. 
The novel turns on the visions of the 
God-blessed family, which may or 
may not have been engendered by the 
Keeper of Earth, and their struggles 

interzone July 1993 61 

against the invasion of Basilica by the 
charismatic General Vozmuzhalnoy. 
The general doesn’t believe in God, but 
it soon becomes clear that he has been 
manipulated like the rest — and as the 
plot develops to its climax we discover 
that everything has been predeter- 
mined by the schemes of the Oversoul. 

Card is one of sf’s finest technicians 
of plot, and while he is prone to let his 
thumbmark show in the making, here 
the thumbmarks are disguised as 
God’s. God is the author of history, 
actively interfering for His own ends. 
Indeed, there’s a strong sense of the 
Old Testament running through the 
book: the Oversoul is a desert god, or at 
least that’s where most of His revela- 
tions take place; the general’s take- 
over of the city is steeped in the heroic 
cunning of a David; the Oversoul is try- 
ing to ensure that thirteen chosen 
couples escape into the desert (the 
Israelites had twelve tribes, but we 
remember that Card is a Mormon, and 
on their flight thirteen families were 
led to Utah’s salt lakes). In the end, the 
Chosen leave Basilica, the narrative 
pulls back and history sweeps over all, 
leaving only the hook that the trek to 
Earth has begun in earnest, but we 
don’t yet quite know what it will find. 
If you like Card’s fiction enough to 
trust him, then that will be enough. 

S torm Constantine’s Sign for the 
Sacred (Headline, £8.99) has a 
cavalier disregard for organized relig- 
ion, for all that it centres around the 
mystery of a charismatic prophet. 
There are four narrative threads, all 
leading towards the prophet Rese- 
nence Jeopardy, whose teachings are 
threatening the establishment Church 
of Ixmarity. The ruthless cleric Wilfish 
Implexion is determined to find and 
execute the heretic, while a pair of 
mis-matched couples are searching for 
him as a means of salvation. Inter- 
leaved with their picaresque journeys 
is the story of Jeopardy’s one-time 
lover, a dancer escaped from slavery 
(and another of Constantine’s beauti- 
ful doomed bisexual boys), revealing 
where Jeopardy started from, although 
not quite how he came to be what he is. 

None of this really comes together: 
Constantine seems more concerned 
with individual set-pieces rather than 
plot development. But despite a slow 
beginning, a pell-mell ending that 
throws the entire plot out of the win- 
dow, and occasionally wandering 
across the dividing line between art- 
fulness and whimsy, there’s plenty to 
enjoy here. Constantine has a painterly 
eye for the bizarre, and shows a lighter 
touch than she’s previously displayed. 
There’s a finely sustained (there’s no 
getting away from this) romantically 
gothic late medieval atmosphere, and 
a nice ambiguity about Jeopardy him- 
self, who when he finally appears isn’t 
quite sure what he has become, and 

62 interzone July 1993 

nor are we, but that is perhaps the 
moral of this particular fairy tale. 

T he consolations of religion were 
never for Isaac Asimov, even at the 
end. Although his last book. Forward 
the Foundation (Doubleday, £14.99), 
aches with a foreboding sense of mor- 
tality, it is resolutely humanist. It is of 
course the final part in Asimov’s 
attempt to weave all his works into a 
single narrative, and returns to the 
beginning of the Foundation series, 
and the capital world of the Galactic 
Empire, and Hari Seldon. Cast in 
episodic form, it plays Seldon’s 
attempts to set up his two foundations 
for the preservation of knowledge 
against the coming of night and the fall 
of the Empire. 

It is a chronicle of loss - of Seldon’s 
failing powers, of the end of order and 
rationality. In every episode, Seldon 
pits his own rationality against corrupt 
or foolish politicians and wins, but in 
every episode things are a little worse. 
Not once but twice, Seldon is hauled 
into court for defending himself 
against yobs. His best friend, a robot, 
must disappear to escape unmasking; 
his wife, another robot, dies; his step- 
son’s family are killed in a military 
skirmish; a sympathetic emperor is 
assassinated. In the end Seldon has 
only the future, and when he dies, as 
we know he must, it is unfolding 
around him as he predicted, as we 
know it must. We have already read of 
the future of his foundations, in other 
books. And yet Seldon’s future is the 
future of days long past. The present is 
so much stranger than Asimov or any 
of his generation could have imagined 
their future would be, back at the end 
of the last World War and the dawn of 
the Cold War and the atomic age. 
There are other futures now, and while 
they all owe something to Asimov's 
vast empire, it is fallen and there is no 

Also Noted: 

Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams 
(Bloomsbury, £11.99) is a series of 
short, sweet epiphanies structured as 
the dreams of the young Einstein who 
sleeps at his patent-office desk, 
exhausted by his labour at reconceiv- 
ing time. Each dream is of an imagi- 
nary world where time behaves diffe- 
rently: where there is no future; where 
time brings increasing order; where 
time is absent and there are only 
images, and so on. These are not sterile 
thought experiments but are crammed 
with life, examining the consequences 
of changes in the nature of time not in 
terms of physics but in human terms, 
love and death, and the textures of 
everyday life of early-20th-century 
Zurich. In a world where time is pre- 
sent but not measurable: 

Some people attempt to quantify 
time, to parse time, to dissect time. 

They are turned to stone. Their 
bodies stand frozen on street cor- 
ners, cold, hard, and heavy. In time, 
these statues are taken to the quarry- 
man, who cuts them up evenly in 
equal sections and sells them for 
houses when he needs the money. 
But Einstein’s Dreams, beautifully and 
tenderly written, is no monument: 
every page is alive with the joy of 
speculation, and filled with human 

Brian D’Amato’s Beauty (£4.99) 
spends a long time going nowhere 
much with the notion that with a 
miraculous fleshlike polymer a gifted 
artist could create the ultimate Iconic 
Woman, but there’s enjoyment to be 
had along the way from this bitchy and 
very funny insider’s view of the diz- 
zily hip late-20th-century New York 
art scene. It aims at literature, but 
despite salting its text with quotes 
from the likes of Bataille, it is surface 
with only apparent depth, self-regard- 
ing reflection without analysis. It is a 

(Paul J. McAuley) 

Some Out-of- 
Genre Fantasies 
Chris Gilmore 

W ith fantasy the distinction 
between genre and mainstream 
writing is complex, but it’s not entirely 
misleading to say that the heirs of Dun- 
sany, Cabell and Howard are in the 
laager, while the mainstream claims 
all other traditions. The distinction 
has nothing to do with intellectual 
content or literary merit; genealogy is 
all. The four non-genre books consi- 
dered below reflect this diversity, but 
it’s not without interest that two make 
use of the Unreliable Witness, three 
involve animals which are not all they 
seem, and three depend for a part of 
their impact on the topography of 
specific cities: Oxford, London and 
Uppsala. Far more importantly, two 
are about something, two exist only to 
show how clever are their authors. 

Snow, by Nigel Frith (Breese Books, 
£14.99) concerns the involvement of 
Nigel O’Ryan (an Oxford under- 
graduate of romantic disposition who 
is very much the author’s mouthpiece) 
with gothic manifestations emanating 
from an empty house on Boars Hill. To 
him they offer comfort, reassurance 
and love; to everyone else, horror and 
madness. By way of balance, the 
deconstructionist regime whereunder 
he must study Eng Lit at “St Mary’s 
College” [Magdelen] is hardly less hor- 
rible and maddening, for he perceives 
himself as something midway bet- 
ween Rupert Brooke and Errol Flynn. 

I sympathize, but would sympathize 
more if Frith could live up to the 
extremely high standards he demands 
of everyone else. You can’t afford a de 
haut en bus tone when you scramble 
the order of a sentence like this. 

He saw a staircase seemingly rearing 
up into the sky, down which with a 
pair of pistols, jerking her arms, star- 
ing, came a Victorian woman with a 
face death-pale, translucent and 
streaked with blood. 

The burden of the allegory, which con- 
cerns the moral and intellectual 
deficiencies of the modern world in 
general, and English scholarship in 
particular, is essentially that of Bal- 
lard’s “Studio 5, the Stars” (the ending 
is similar as well, though more senti- 
mental in tone). Frith raises Ballard’s 
ante by including 14 of Nigel’s poems, 
but their quality is quite as erratic as 
his prose. There’s a moderate sonnet, 
and rather a good villanelle, but when 
he tries to be funny we get such 
doggerel as: 

Deep upon the dark horizon. 

With their decagynous eyes on 
Three shapes float with hurried craft 
Born (sic) on a sail-entattered raft. 
This is a serious weakness in one who 
describes himself as “a real poet,” and 
1 imagine his failure to discriminate 
between “sunk” and “sank” no less 
than “born” and “borne” must hamper 
him somewhat in his career as a uni- 
versity tutor. 

There are also some loose ends; we 
never find out why O’Ryan hit the por- 
ter, for instance. Altogether, it’s a pity 
that such an original ghost story 
should be marred by such gross 
unevenness of teJfture. If the general 
level of the writing' could be raised to 
the very highest attained, we would 
have a worthy Oxonian counterpart to 
Simon Raven’s Places Where They 
Sing, (though with proportions of sex 
and the supernatural reversed). But 
that’s a very large if; Frith is obviously 
a man of strong passions, and such 
men need firm editorial direction. It 
has not been provided. 

( t I '1 eath is easy, comedy is hard”; 

A-/ by extension, gentle comedy is 
hardest of all. The Jazz Elephants by 
Paul Beardmore (Abacus, £6.99) 
achieves a sunny atmosphere through- 
out without descending to the maw- 
kish, the pious or the twee. The two 
zoo elephants. Rumpus Pumpus and 
Finta Fanta, having learned to speak 
and read by studying keepers, visitors 
and old newspapers which blow into 
their compound, decide that the wider 
world beckons. They engineer their 
escape (leaving behind a locked-room 
mystery) and team up with Henri 
Conlisse, scion of a City family who 
wishes to be a jazz trombonist. In a 
Soho club the three of them join a 
combo which had been deficient in 
brass, the elephants trumpeting trad 

and modern numbers to rare effect. But 
of course, all three have been missed 
. . .the (big) game’s afoot! 

Beardmore locates his tale perfectly 
in the topography of Soho and the City, 
and illustrates it with a glorious suc- 
cession of fantasias on the themes pro- 
vided by London’s archetypes, starting 
with a cod Livery Company (the Wor- 
shipfnl Company of Bell Founders and 
Organ Grinders) and taking in the Met- 
ropolitan Police, the Monarchy, the 
Civil Service and much else on the 
way. Despite the childish premise, this 
very tall tale is beautifully visualized, 
and as with all the best fantasy, the 
internal logic is flawless. This allows 
the tale to grow taller. How do you dis- 
guise a fugitive elephant? Pass it off as 
a butterfly! And if you want to know 
how to do that, read the book. 

T he trouble with being Swedish is 
that no one (in the UK at any rate) 
takes you seriously. Bjorn Borg, Abba, 
Dag Hammarskjold, the Muppet chef — 
despite their various and acknow- 
ledged talents, we have never 
approached them with the solemnity 
they command elsewhere. Even the 
Ing. Bergmans (-rid and -mar) seem 
condemned to share one reputation. 
August Strindberg, with his uncritical 
devotion to Nietzsche, his misogyny, 
his antisemitism and the diary in 
which he recorded the occasions when 
he “possessed” his wives (even when 
they were living apart) is an obvious 
butt for low comedy. In Augustus Rex, 
(Penguin, £5.99) Clive Sinclair sets 
about it. 

The tale is told from the viewpoint 
of Beelzebub, on this occasion a 
slightly camp version of Screwtape, 
who offers the dying playwright a 
Faustian bargain, resurrecting him 
under a false name in 1961. To repre- 
sent convincingly the agonies of a 
paranoid genius struggling with a sud- 
denly rejuvenated body, the bloodiest 
half century yet recorded and the dis- 
comfiture of all his prejudices is no 
small challenge. Sinclair does not 
attempt it; instead he resurrects that 
tired staple of European farce, the man 
whose insane fear of being cuckolded 
drives his wife into the arms of a rival 
whom she would not otherwise have 
considered. But instead of introducing 
the rival (who only appears in the last 
chapter) he proceeds to make hay with 
another easy target - Freudian 
analysis. Then he gives his hero the 
Philosophers’ Stone, so that he can 
make gold and be corrnpted succes- 
sively by unearned wealth and equally 
unearned adulation. 

The theological framework is that of 
a prolonged and extremely inept 
Temptation, but the story is essentially 
pointless — the individual scenes gen- 
erally work, but they never gel. 
Sinclair is a small man, trifling with 
the weaknesses of a great one; that he 

does so through the medium of the 
Father of Lies allows the Unreliable 
Witness to be invoked, but fails to 
redeem the book, Beelzebub being 
remarkable only for his smugness. 
Shaw remarked that he would like to 
dig up Shakespeare’s body and throw 
stones at him. Reading Augustus Rex 
is a bit like being forced to watch him 
do it. 

T he Imaginary Monkey by Sean 
French (Granta, £12.99) comes in 
two parts. The first is a hyper-realistic, 
mildly pornographic and rather dreary 
account of the amour of Greg and 
Susan, two people of less than average 
savvy, beauty and elan. As they are 
drawn to each other less by desire than 
an existential fear of having no one, so 
their cohabitation is sustained less by 
affection and respect than by the need 
to be recognized in the world at large 
as at least minimally bedworthy, and 
by their own acceptance of very mod- 
erate expectations. After two years 
Susan lands a more attractive lover, 
and Greg gets drunk. 

He awakes to find himself trans- 
formed into a small monkey, a role 
offering better possibilities than that of 
large dung beetle, but which he lacks 
the imagination to exploit; he scam- 
pers off to Susan’s new home, where 
he has little trouble getting adopted as 
a pet (and named Greg, after himself). 
By day he practises his monkey 
routines, by night, to punish Susan’s 
infidelity, he engineers small domes- 
tic disasters, and writes the book. Ulti- 
mately he reads Susan’s diaries (some- 
thing he had never managed to do dur- 
ing their human relationship) which 
purges his bile. Susan becomes preg- 
nant. End of book. 

As a novel it’s deeply unsatisfactory. 
The observation is pinpoint sharp, the 
expression is witty, but neither can 
compensate for the yawning absence 
of purpose. One might as well read the 
novelization of a random segment 
from a daytime soap. The usual justifi- 
cation for this sort of thing is that “it’s 
how real people live,” with the impli- 
cation that those who by choice or cir- 
cumstance find their lives touched by 
drama, passion or heroism are (like 
those who display style, talent or 
genius) in some way less “real” than 
the ruck. It’s a point of view, of course; 
and those who hold it may find the 
paraphernalia of magic realism afford 
necessary support. 

(Chris Gilmore) 

intrrzone July 1993 63 

Wacky Quests 
and Revelations 

Pete Crowther 

T here must have been a moment — 
perhaps even several - during the 
writing of Gone South (Michael 
Joseph, £15.99 & £9.99), when its 
author, Robert McCammon, wondered 
whether the novel was actually going 
to work. Because, let’s face it: it’s cer- 
tainly wacky. 

It concerns a quest, of sorts. 

Dan Lambert, suffering what is prob- 
ably the early tertiary stage of a 
leukaemia left to him by the deadly 
fallout of Agent Orange, is separated 
from his wife and son and trying to 
make ends meet in the recession. With 
characteristically impeccable timing, 
Dan’s bank calls to re-possess his 
truck, his only means of making any 
living at all. He goes down to the bank 
to try to reason with them only to find 
that there’s no sentiment in business. 
A row ensues and, in an attempt to get 
Dan out of his office, the bank manager 
calls the security guard; tempers are 
lost, a gun is drawn and the scuffle 
ends in death. Dan Lambert, now a 
fugitive, sets off for the sanctuary of 
the Louisiana bayous. 

Invited to track him down for a siz- 
able reward are two unusual bounty 
hunters; a man with the additional 
head and arm of his undeveloped twin 
brother growing out of his torso, and 
an Elvis Presley impersonator. 

En route, Dan comes across Arden 
Halliday, a young woman on a quest of 
her own: namely to find the fabled 
Bright Girl, whose touch, she hopes, 
will rid her of her own burden - a dis- 
figuring birthmark that blankets half of 
her face. 

What follows is a story which is vir- 
tually impossible to categorize. By 
turns uplifting and exciting. Gone 
South maintains 100% entertainment 
until the final page is ended. Like the 
magnificent Boy’s Life — now available 
as a paperback from Penguin Books, 
priced £4.99 — which preceded it. 
Gone South is actually a parable, a tale 
of beliefs, convictions and human 
emotions, with a resolution that is 
both credible and optimistic... 
McCammon’s stock in trade. 

“ . . . and he told me stories about the 
Bright Girl . How she could touch my 
birthmark and take it away. He told 
me where he’d grown up, and how 
everybody down there knew about 
the Bright Girl.” She paused again, 
her eyes narrowing as she viewed 
some distant scene inside her head. 
“Those stories ... they were so real. 
So full of light and hope. That’s what 
I need right now.” 

Don’t we all. 

I f Robert McCammon deals in light 
and hope, then it’s probably fair to 
say that the great veteran spooksmith 
Charles L. Grant deals in twilight and 
uncertainty. His 1982 novel The Nest- 
ling demonstrated a fine story-telling 
power, an ability he was to take 
through to later novels - albeit to occa- 
sionally markedly lesser extents - plus 
the Shadows and Greystone Bay 
anthology series and, of course, his 
own excellent short stories, frequently 
among the best in the field. It’s because 
of this that his new book, Raven (NEL, 
£14.99), is so disappointing. Because, 
while fitting perfectly into his oeuvre, 
it’s altogether too slight. 

Raven tells the story of a group of 
individuals trapped in a diner by an 
eerie stranger who occupies the dis- 
tant trees, watching the diner and fail- 
ing to leave tracks in the snow. Eventu- 
ally, the occupants — having remarked 
at the fact that there seems to be no traf- 
fic on the road - try to leave . . . with the 
result that one of them is shot. They 
return to their “prison,” where tem- 
pers and personalities flare and crash, 
while, outside, the storm worsens. 
Eventually, further attempts to leave 
must be made. 

The isolation theme of the story has, 
of course, been explored before, but 
usually only as a complementary 
backdrop: Stephen King’s “The Mist,” 
for example, had a group of people 
trapped in a supermarket; while, in 
issues six and seven of DC Comics ’ The 
Sandman (“24 Hours” and “Sound 
And Fury”), Neil Gaiman also trapped 
his characters in a diner. There are 
others. The point of the technique is 
presumably to build tension and put 
personalities under pressure so that, 
eventually, they blow. In Raven, how- 
ever, the imprisonment is more funda- 
mental and the characters merely 
seethe, talk and think. 

The most original element — aside 
from the fact that, as in King’s Dolores 
Claiborne, there are no chapter breaks 
- is the apparent metaphysical link 
between the stranger and one of the 
people trapped in the diner, and the 
related significance of an early sight- 
ing of a raven. But while, to his credit. 
Grant pulls out all the stops and builds 
this well, we never learn exactly what 
the connection is - if, indeed, there is 
one at all. 

Re-worked as a short story, with a 
less obtuse and overtly stylistic 
approach, this could make it. As a 
novel, it falls far short of the energy or 
substance required to carry it across 
the finishing line. 

E nergy is something Bentley Little 
is not short of, and his debut novel, 
The Revelation (Headline, £15.99), is 
so full of substance it should come 
with a handle to make carrying it 

Little has already made something 

of a reputation for himself with a 
stream of baroque short stories which 
have appeared in the likes of Tom 
Monteleone’s Borderlands anthology 
series and many small-press American 
magazines. But, wisely - particularly 
in view of my comments on Grant’s 
Raven — Little went for a more tradi- 
tionally accessible narrative to prog- 
ress this full-length story of good ver- 
sus evil, and the decision netted him 
the Bram Stoker Award for Best First 
Novel of its year (1989). 

Remembering all that Stephen King 
taught us (and, so some would say, has 
since forgotten!) about how to tell a 
story, Little invites us into the small 
Arizona town of Randall where the 
usual “strange things” seem to be hap- 

For a starter, someone butchers sev- 
eral herds of goats and daubs the local 
church with their blood; a senile old 
woman becomes pregnant and then, 
without warning, delivers a hideously 
deformed still-born foetus which, 
when everyone’s backs are turned, 
comes to life and apparently walks 
away; the local minister and his family 
disappear; and, when he takes his 
pregnant wife for a medical check-up 
in nearby Phoenix, one of the towns- 
folk encounters a bizarre preacherman 
who offers help: 

“I don’t need any help,” Gordon 
said. He turned back to his insur- 
ance forms. 

“Yes you do. Your wife is going to 
have a baby. And there will be trou- 

This, of course, turns out to be an 
understatement of mammoth propor- 

The Revelation is a remarkably well- 
worked and enjoyable book which, 
while borrowing at least the senti- 
ments of such earlier works as Rose- 
mary’s Baby, The Exorcist and every 
small-town disaster/horror novel since 
’Salem's Lot, has its own confident 
and distinctive voice. Manipulative as 
hell. Little builds horror upon horror 
as he moves like an express train to the 
climactic confrontation. 

Absolutely first rate and highly 
recommended. Headline promises 
more . . . watch the racks! 

C hristopher Fowler’s version of 
modern day London — an eerily 
Ealing-flavoured capital which occa- 
sionally verges dangerously close to 
fog-shrouded cobbled streets, laven- 
der sellers and cries of “Gor blimey. 
Guv” - generally works surprisingly 
and endearingly well... in much the 
same way as Ramsey Gampbell’s 
Liverpool fits his own bleak suburban 

But in his latest. Darkest Day (Little, 
Brown, £10.99), Fowler’s setting 
seems to be so stylized that it resem- 
bles an uneasy hybrid of a Dennis 
Wheatley novel and the “Blackfriars 

64 interzone July 1993 

Phantom” text serial which ran in 
Radio Fun comic in the 1950s. And 
there’s the rub: it comes across as being 
quite juvenile in all departments - plot 
progression, characterization and 
dialogue, all of which are, in the main, 
stereotypical and somewhat two- or 
even one-dimensional. 

Darkest Day concerns, primarily, a 
young woman who ’s afraid of the dark, 
a bizarre Victorian occult society, a 
string of unusual deaths - many of 
which could easily have been 
included in Young Sherlock Holmes 
or an episode of The Avengers televi- 
sion show - a well-heeled but pseudo- 
aristocratic family of gargantuan 
objectionability, and a pair of detec- 
tives who resemble a cross between 
Herge’s Thompson twins and Rath- 
bone’s and Bruce’s Holmes and Wat- 
son. In fact, archetypes abound here 
and it’s undoubtedly as a result of 
Fowler’s strong links to the movie 
industry that it’s so easy to put famous 
actor-faces to his characters. 

Art fraud, exotic executions — 
including a man who literally 
explodes on a tube train - computer 
jiggery-pokery, government hi-jinks, 
an ice cream van that steals its custom- 
ers, voodoo, tigers, Gilbert and Sulli- 
van (!), a machine that could have 
come straight from an old Jules Verne 
or H.G. Wells story, a new slant on 
Christmas and a welter of rotten assas- 
sins all combine to produce a literary 
belter skelter of B-movie proportions. 

In a style that’s sometimes jokingly 
melodramatic and only occasionally 
black. Darkest Day nevertheless deliv- 
ers Fowler’s rather predictable brand 
of horror with panache. Which is more 
than can be said for rhany, for it is quite 
a tale and one which is engagingly told 
— but one cannot help but wonder how 
much better it would have been if it 
had come in a good bit shorter than its 
current 570 pages. 

If you’re not acquainted with his 
work and fancy giving him a try - and 
he is well worth the effort - then read 
the excellent Roofworld or Rune, or 
even one of his three short-story col- 
lections. His latest, Sharper Knives 
(Warner, £8.99), contains some of the 
best titles this side of Harlan Ellison in 
his prime - witness: “Black Day at Bad 
Rock,” “The Legend of Dracula Recon- 
sidered as a Prime-Time TV Special,” 
“Norman Wisdom and the Angel of 
Death,” “Persia” and “The Vintage Car 
Table-Mat Collection of the Living 
Dead.” Hard to resist... but don’t 
expect much in the way of happy end- 
ings. (Pete Crowther) 

British Magazine 


John Duffield 

I t is with sorrow and a sense of loss 
that I write this: Trevor Jones, pub- 
lisher of New Moon, died at the end of 
February 1993 after a long illness. 
You’ll perhaps be aware that I was an 
assistant editor for the magazine 
before its publication was halted last 
year. All that time and longer Trevor 
was a man who silently shouldered his 
burdens. When he couldn’t come to 
the phone it was because he was on his 
back. When he couldn’t come to the 
London pub evenings it was because 
he was on dialysis. You wouldn’t have 
known it. With his brother Roger he 
produced 37 issues of New Moon and 
its Dream incarnation over seven 
years. It was always my favourite, full 
of the wonder that, I don’t know, nur- 
tures the creativity that is the meaning 
of life. Now he’s dead and he won’t be 
able to watch his daughter growing up, 
and his wife will miss him so so much. 
Thank you, Trevor, for what you gave. 

D ementia 13 is now spreading out 
from its horror origins to offer fan- 
tasy, and I hear tell, some science 
fiction in future. Issue 10 is A4 and 
typeset, with a red & black card cover 
and a layout that’s only let down by 
some poor illustrations. It gives seven 
stories for £1.75, an interview with 
Ramsey Campbell, letters, a couple of 
articles, a history of Peeping Tom 
magazine, and a magazine list. 

It starts off with a story by Julie 
Akhurst called “Received with 
Thanks,” about a girl in a flat who 
meets an actor who does the dirty on 
his girlfriend by selling her soul in 
return for fame, fortune and Holly- 
wood. It was credible, and believable. 
“Bobtail” by D.F. Lewis was however 
rather typical of his prose-poem style, 
and did nothing for me. Moving on 
quickly, I enjoyed “A Fisherman’s 
■Pale” by William Smith, where a guy 
walks into a pub and it all goes quiet. It 
transpires there’s this local lake that’s 
reputedly bottomless, harbouring a 
monster fishie, and the newcomer has 
come to catch it. The story is light- 
hearted, with a different ending that 
brought a smile. 

“The Children of Avalon” by Mark 
Samuels was a little like Day of the 
Triffids in that everybody looks up at 
the cosmic radiation, only instead of 
being blinded they end up turning into 
immortal slime mould. Nice storyline, 
but the execution and resolution 
weren’t so hot. “Weird” by Stuart 
Hughes was slow and had some logic 
problems, but with some nice imagery: 
All the skin was a pale, greying colour, 
with darkening tinges of bruised dark 

blue. It was about a guy having a hang- 
over and a half, any more would let the 
cat out of the bag. 

“Prey” by Steve Green was a shortie 
with a punchline ending that was 
spoilt by a give-away illustration. 
Pauli Pinn’s “The Huntress” was a too 
obscure short-short that only reminded 
me of The Hunger with D. Bowie and 
C. Deneuve. Totting up, I found I 
definitely liked two of the seven 
stories, thought three were OK, and 
disliked two. All in all, the mag isn’t 
quite my cup of tea, but is adequately 
readable and varied. 

Dementia 13, an illustrated journal 
of the Arcane and Macabre. 54 A4 
pages, £1.75 per issue or £7.50 for a 
four-quarter sub. Available from and 
cheques payable to Pam Creais, at 17 
Pinewood Avenue, Sidcup, Kent, 
DA15 8BB. 

S trange Attractor seems to be 
finding its feet. Issue 3 is nicely 
presented, with nary a typo in sight. 
No illustrations either, but nevermind. 
It’s still A5, with a two-colour shiny 
cover, weighing in at 54 pages and 
eight stories. There’s again perhaps an 
overly horrific tone but what really 
gives it lift-off is the humour. 

“Baby Boom” by Jim Steel is abso- 
lutely gross, all about babies and a 
pitchfork, said implement propelling 
said babies into the incinerator, of 
course. Until, that is, a knowing tele- 
pathic newborn comes slipping down 
the chute trailing his umbilicus. Jim 
Steel has his tongue so far in cheek it’s 
positively waggling out of his ear. I just 
had to laugh. Another droll story is one 
called “The Ponk” about a dude who is 
suffering from intermittently blocked 
drains, and premonitions of drowning 
when he sees his wan reflection in the 
grey-brown fetid water. The fun 
turned cold at the end though, with a 
genuinely chilling surprise. It was 
written by John Duffield. Must be some 

Then there was “Old Croak” by 
Richard Williams, about a pushy brat 
schoolkid who breaks into the high- 
walled manor house, scene of hushed 
whispers and dubious goings on. The 
suspense is delicious, and of course 
young Archie finds his just desserts in 
the end when he meets the family. 
“Her Ghosts” by P.J.L. Hinder was 
thoughtful, a post-apocalyptic run- 
down future where reality is fraying at 
the edges and people are leaking back 
in. The style was unconventional here, 
but didn’t mar the delivery. “The 
People Upstairs” by David Logan was 
likeable and upbeat, about a dining 
club featuring for example the one- 
armed rugby player who gave himself 
a knuckle sandwich. Grotesque 
maybe, but the humour makes it palat- 
able, ho ho. 

There’s other stuff that was a waste 
of space, fiction that doesn’t go any- 

interzono July 1993 65 

where or even enjoy the journey. Plus 
there’s some pallid poetry from guys 
like Steve Sneyd and the award-win- 
ning Bruce Boston. Wince. But never- 
mind, overall Strange Attractor has a 
fair old hit rate, ft’s fun. 

Strange Attractor: Horror, Fantasy, 
&■ Slipstream (I gather Slipstream is 
f&sf with the ray guns and magic 
swords tidied away). 54 A5 pages, 
£2.00 per issue or £7. 75 for a four-quar- 
terish subscription. Available from 
and cheques payable to Strange Attrac- 
tor, c/o Rick Cadger, 111 SundonRoad, 
Houghton Regis, Beds, LU5 5NL. 

A h. It looks as if I’ve come to the 
. bottom of the barrel now. All I can 
scrape up is stuff like Territories. 
Hmmn. Naw, forget it. Instead, in clos- 
ing, I’d just like to mention Cassandra. 
This isn’t a magazine, but instead is a 
little writers’ club where you pay 
£7.50 per annum for a monthly news- 
letter plus the faint chance of rubbing 
shoulders with people like Terry 
Pratchett. It gives timely info on 
magazines and other outlets, offers 
workshopping opportunities both 
postal or physical, and seems to be a 
good launching ground judging from 
the past and present members. If 
you’re interested in writing, this will 
be money well spent. Cheques payable 
to Cassandra, c/o Martyn Taylor, at 14 
Natal Road, Cambridge. 

(John Duffield) 

UK Books Received 

March 1993 

The following is a list of all sf, fantasy and 
horror titles, and books of related interest, 
received by Interzone during the month 
specified above. Official publication dates, 
where known, are given in italics at the end 
of each entry. Descriptive phrases in quotes 
following titles are taken from book covers 
rather than title pages, A listing here does 
not preclude a separate review in this issue 
(or in a future issue] of the magazine. 

Adams, Nicholas. Hard Rock. “Horror 
High, 1.” Boxtree, ISBN 1-85283-822-1, 
156pp, paperback, £2.99. (Juvenile horror/ 
suspense novel, first published in the USA, 
1991; it’s copyrighted by “Daniel Weiss 
Associates, Inc.,” presumably a packaging 
company.) 25th March 1993. 

Adams, Nicholas. Sudden Death. “Horror 
High, 2.” Boxtree, ISBN 1-85283-827-2, 
151pp, paperback, £2.99. (Juvenile horror/ 
suspense novel, first published in the USA, 

1991.) 25th March 1993. 

Aldiss, Brian, Non-Stop. Penguin/Roc, 
ISBN 0-14-017353-6, 269pp, paperback, 
£4.99. (Sf novel, first published in 1958; 
about lost tribes aboard a generation star- 
ship, this was Aldiss’s first sf novel.) 25th 
March 1993. 

Andrews, Virginia. Midnight Whispers. 
Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-671-71811-8, 
440pp, trade paperback, £8.99. (Romantic 
horror novel, first published in the USA, 
1992; this is "the fourth novel in the bril- 
liant new series which opened with Dawn"; 

66 inlorzone July 1993 

as to the true authorship, it’s interesting 
that the publishers now feel the need to put 
a disclaimer on the front cover: “Since Vir- 
ginia’s death, we have worked with a care- 
fully selected writer to organize and com- 
plete Virginia’s stories and to create addi- 
tional novels, of which this is one, inspired 
by her storytelling genius,”) 25th March 

Anthony, Piers. Demons Don’t Dream. New 
English Library, ISBN 0-450-58150-0, 
344pp, hardcover, £15,99. (Fantasy novel, 
first published in the USA, 1993: it’s 
described on the jacket flap as “the six- 
teenth chronicle of the enchanted kingdom 
of Xanth.”) 25th March 1993. 

Anthony, Piers. Isle of View. Hodder/NEL, 
ISBN 0-450-57113-0, 344pp, paperback, 
£4.99. (Fantasy novel, first published in the 
USA, 1990; another “magic of Xanth” 
novel.) 25th March 1993. 

Avallone, Michael. The Man from 
U.N.C.L.E. Boxtree, ISBN 1-85283-877-9, 
155pp, paperback, £3.99. (Sf/thriller TV 
novelization, first published in the USA, 
1965; first in the long-running “U.N.C.L.E.” 
series of spoof spy yarns; the author is 
perhaps best known for his crime fiction, 
but also has written dozens of movie 
novelizations including one of the Planet of 
the Apes books.) 29th April 1993. 

Banks, Iain. The Crow Road. Abacus, ISBN 
0-349-10323-2, 501pp, paperback, £6,99. 
(Non-sf novel by a well-known sf writer, 
first published in 1992.) 22nd April 1993. 

Bloom, Clive. Creepers: British Horror and 
Fantasy in the Twentieth Century. Pluto 
Press, ISBN 0-7453-0665-9, xii-l-190pp, 
paperback, £9.95. (Anthology of critical 
essays, first edition; there is a simultaneous 
hardcover edition [not seen); subjects 
covered by the mainly academic con- 
tributors include “Empire Gothic,” William 
Hope Hodgson, Arthur Machen, M.R. 
James, Daphne du Maurier, Dennis Wheat- 
ley, C.S. Lewis, James Herbert, Angela Car- 
ter. Clive Barker and a few others; the 
essays, are variable, but most have the 
characteristic virtues and failings of much 
recent academic writing on popular fiction; 
curiously, for a book on British horror, the 
quintessential English master of the genre, 
Ramsey Campbell, gets just one passing 
mention - and his name is mis-spelled.) 
Late entry: February publication, received 
in March 1993. 

Brooks, Terry. The Elf Queen of Shannara. 
“Book Three of The Heritage of Shannara.” 
Legend, ISBN 0-09-920131-3, 403pp, 

paperback, £5.99. (Fantasy novel, first pub- 
lished in the USA, 1992.) 18th March 1993. 

Brooks, Terry. The Talismans of Shannara. 
“Book Four of The Heritage of Shannara.” 
Legend, ISBN 0-09-926231-2, 453pp, 

hardcover, £14,99. (Fantasy novel, first 
published in the USA, 1993.) 18th March 

Carroll, Jonathan. After Silence. Abacus, 
ISBN 0-349-10347-X, 240pp, paperback. 
£5,99, (Fantasy novel, first published in 
1992; fifth in the “Answered Prayers Quin- 
tet” [the series title is John Clute's coinage); 
reviewed by Clute in Interzone 61.) 22nd 
April 1993. 

Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls, eds. The 
Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. [2nd edi- 
tion.) Orbit, ISBN 1-85723-124-4, xxxvi-l- 
1370pp, hardcover, £45, (Sf encyclopedia; 
the first edition, under the general editor- 
ship of Peter Nicholls, was published by 
Granada in 1979; so here it is a last - the 
book we've been awaiting for more than a 
decade; an astonishing 1.3 million words in 
length [almost twice the size of the first 
edition), it contains no illustrations, just 
1,400 pages of double-column small print 

crammed with reliable information about 
the field; every author, editor, magazine, 
anthology series and sf movie you can think 
of has an entry herein; perhaps even more 
valuable, though, are the countless “theme” 
and “terminology” entries, collectively 
adding up to an entire history and commen- 
tary on the genre; this is the Encyclopedia 
Britannica of our field, an indispensable 
work; the vast bulk of it has been written by 
Messrs Clute and Nicholls themselves, 
with considerable help from contributing 
editor Brian Stableford: they are to be con- 
gratulated on a mammoth labour and a bril- 
liant result; if necessary, go and sell a few 
dozen old paperbacks in order to buy this 
book, but buy it you must,) 8th April 1993. 

Cooper, Louise. Aisling: Book 8 of Indigo. 
Grafton, ISBN 0-586-21444-5, 340pp, 

paperback, £4.99. (Fantasy novel, first edi- 
tion; last in the “Indigo” series?) I3fh April 

Daniel, Tony. Warpath. Orion/Millen- 
nium, ISBN 1-85798-076-X, 295pp, hard- 
cover, £14.99. (Sf novel, first published in 
the USA, 1993; there is a simultaneous 
trade paperback edition priced at £8.99: 
reviewed by John Clute in Interzone 71.) 
8th April 1993. 

Darvill-Evans, Peter. Deceit. “The New 
Doctor Who Adventures.” Virgin/Doctor 
Who, ISBN 0-426-20387-9, 325pp, paper- 
back, £3.99. (Shared-universe sf novel, first 
edition; the author is also the editor of this 
series of spinoff novels, and he includes an 
eight-page afterword explaining the 
philosophy of the latest "Doctor Who” pub- 
lishing enterprise.) 15fh April 1993. 

Dickson, Gordon R. The Dragon on the Bor- 
der. Grafton, ISBN 0-586-21328-7, 393pp. 
paperback, £5.99, (Fantasy novel, first pub- 
lished in the USA, 1992; third in the “Dra- 
gon Knight” series.) 26th April 1993. 

Eisenstein, Phyllis. In the Red Lord’s 
Reach. Grafton, ISBN 0-586-21761-4, 
282pp, paperback, £4.99, (Fantasy novel, 
first published in the USA, 1989; the sec- 
ond book about Alaric the Minstrel.) 29th 
March 1993. 

Eldredge, Niles. The Miner’s Canary: 
Unravelling the Mysteries of Extinction. 

Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-86369-675-9, 
xviii + 250pp, paperback, £6,99. (Popular 
science text, first published in the USA, 

1991. ) 18th March 1993. 

Foster, Alan Dean, Codgerspace. Orbit, 
ISBN 1-85723-035-3, 309pp, paperback, 
£4,99, (Sf novel, first published in the USA, 

1992. ) 22nd April 1993. 

Fowler, Christopher. Red Bride, Warner, 
ISBN 0-7515-0159-X, 424pp, paperback, 
£4.99, (Horror novel, first published in 

1992. ) 22nd April 1993. 

Friedman, Michael Jan. Reunion. “Star 
Trek: The Next Generation.” Pocket, ISBN 
0-671-71682-4, 343pp, paperback, £4.50. 
(Shared-universe sf novel, first published 
in the USA, 1991.) 25th March 1993. 

Galford, Ellen. The Dyke and the Dyhbuk, 
Virago, ISBN 1-85381-449-0, 248pp, paper- 
back, £5.99. (Fantasy [?[ novel, first edition; 
this is a fourth novel by an American writer 
who lives Scotland; her earlier books 
include such titles as Moll Cutpurse; Her 
True History [1984) and Queendom Come 
[1990); this one, according to the blurb, 
draws on "the rich store of fantasy, humour 
and occult lore from the almost-lost world 
of Eastern European Jewry.”) 15th April 


Gemmell, David A. Morningstar. Legend, 
ISBN 0-09-922891-2, 282pp, paperback, 
£4.99, (Fantasy novel, first published in 
1992; reviewed by Wendy Bradley in Inter- 
zone 60.) 1st April 1993. 

Gladwish, Roderick. To Stop a War. Pent- 
land Press [1 Hutton Close, South Church, 
Bishop Auckland, Durham DL14 6XB], 
ISBN 1-85821-019-4, 204pp, hardcover, 
£13.50. (Sf novel, first edition; the author is 
British [born 1967] and this is presumably 
his debut book.) 5th April 1993, 

Haining, Peter, ed. Vampires at Midnight: 
Seventeen Brilliant and Chilling Tales of 
the Ghastly Bloodsucking Undead. 

Foreword by Christopher Lee. Warner, 
ISBN 0-7515-0146-8, 255pp, paperback, 
£4.99, (Horror anthology, first published as 
The Midnight People, 1968; this resur- 
rected volume contains a fairly standard 
selection of fiction by Bloch, Bradbury, 
M.R. James, Leiber, Matheson, Polidori, 
Stoker, Manly Wade Wellman and others,) 
8th April 1993, 

Harrison, Harry. Stainless Steel Visions. 
Legend, ISBN 0-09-926021-2, 254pp, trade 
paperback, £8.99, [Sf collection, first pub- 
lished in the USA, 1993; it contains 13 
stories old [“The Streets of Ashkelon”] and 
new [“The Golden Years of the Stainless 
Steel Rat”].) April 1993? 

Jones, Diana Wynne. Cart and Cwidder, 
Mandarin. ISBN 0-7497-1252-X, 214pp. 
paperback, £3.99. (Juvenile fantasy novel, 
first published in 1975; first in the 
“Dalemark” series,) March 1993. 

Jones, Diana Wynne. The Crown of 
Dalemark. Mandarin, ISBN 0-7497-1255-4. 
493pp, paperback, £3,99. (Juvenile fantasy 
novel, first edition; conclusion of the 
“Dalemark” quartet.) March 1993. 

Jones, Diana Wynne. Drowned Ammet. 
Mandarin, ISBN 0-7497-1253-8, 312pp, 
paperback, £3.99. (Juvenile fantasy novel, 
first published in 1977; second in the 
“Dalemark” series.) March 1993. 

Jones, Diana Wynne. The Spellcoats. Man- 
darin, ISBN 0-7497-1254-6, 279pp, paper- 
back, £3.99. (Juvenile fantasy novel, first 
published in 1979; third in the “Dalemark” 
series.) March 1993. 

Joyce, Graham. Dark Sister. Headline, 
ISBN 0-7472-4029-9, 372pp, paperback, 
£4.99. (Horror novel, first published in 
1992.) 15th April 1993. 

Kelman, Judith. Prime Evil. Mandarin, 
ISBN 0-7493-1207-6, 263pp, paperback, 
£3.99. (Horror/suspense novel, first pub- 
lished in the USA, 1986.) 25th March 1993. 

Kingdon, Jonathan. Self-Made Man and 
His Undoing. Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0- 
671-71140-7, xiiH-369pp, hardcover, £20. 
(Popular science text, first edition; by a 
Tanzanian-born British biologist, this is a 
dense and stimulating book on human ori- 
gins; it is illustrated throughout by the 
author; unlike other recent works of similar 
scope [such as Jared Diamond’s easier-read- 
ing The Rise and Fall of the Third Chim- 
panzee, reviewed by Neil Jones in Inter- 
zone 63], it concentrates mainly on our 
“self-made” variegation since the emer- 
gence of the first fully-modern human 
beings, circa 200,000 years ago, and adds 
up to a provocative study of that vexed sub- 
ject known as “race”; a sometimes demand- 
ing but always impressive work, recom- 
mended.) 25th March 1993. 

Koontz, Dean. The Door to December. 
Headline, ISBN 0-7472-3705-0, 472pp, 
paperback, £4.99. (Horror/suspense novel, 
first published in the USA under the 
pseudonym of “Leigh Nicholls,” 1985.) 
15th April 1993. 

Lawhead, Stephen. The Paradise War: 
Song of Albion, Book One, Lion, ISBN 0- 
7459-2466-2, 407pp, paperback, £4.99. 
(Fantasy novel, first published in 1991; 
reviewed by Wendy Bradley in Interzone 
50.) 26fh March 1993. 

Laws, Stephen. Darkfall, Hodder/NEL, 
ISBN 0-450-58173-X, 358pp, paperback, 
£4.99. (Horror novel, first published in 
1992.) 8th April 1993. 

Laws, Stephen, Gideon. New English Lib- 
rary, ISBN 0-450-56394-4, 342pp, hard- 
cover, £15.99. (Horror novel, first edition.) 
8th April 1993. 

Lee, Tanith. Elephantasm. Headline, ISBN 
0-7472-0758-5, 314pp, hardcover, £15.99. 
(Fantasy novel, first edition; proof copy 
received.) 6th May 1993. 

Le Guin, Ursula K. Earthsea Revisioned. 
Green Bay Publications [72 Water Lane, 
Histon, Cambridge CB4 4LR], ISBN 0- 
948845-03-1, 28pp, paperbound, £4.95. 
(Essay by a major sf/fantasy writer, first edi- 
tion; it’s described on the title page as; “A 
lecture delivered under the title Children, 
Women, Men and Dragons at Worlds Apart, 
an institute sponsored by Children’s Litera- 
ture New England and held from August 2 
to 8, 1992 at Keble College, Oxford Univer- 
sity, England.”) 5th April 1993. 

Lindholm, Megan. Alien Earth. Grafton, 
ISBN 0-586-21516-6, 385pp, paperback, 
£4.99. (Sf novel, first published in the USA, 
1992; the author is known for her fantasy, 
but this is described as “her first science fic- 
tion novel.”) 13th April 1993. 

Little, Bentley. The Revelation. Headline, 
ISBN 0-7472-0822-0, 313pp, hardcover, 
£15.99. (Horror novel, first published in the 
USA, 1989; proof copy received; this book 
won the Bram Stoker Award as best first 
novel of its year.) 6th May 1993. 

Lumley, Brian. Elysia: The Coming of 
Cthulhu! Grafton, ISBN 0-586-21468-2, 
237pp, paperback, £4.99. (Horror/fantasy 
novel, first published in 1989; the blurb 
informs us that this the concluding volume 
of not one but three Lumley series; “Titus 
Crow,” “Dreamlands” and “Primal Land.”) 
29th March 1993. 

McCaffrey, Anne, Crystal Line. Bantam 
Press, ISBN 0-593-02876-7, 271pp, trade 
paperback, £8.99. (Sf novel, first published 
in the USA [?], 1992; sequel to The Crystal 
Singer and Killashandra.) 22nd April 1993. 

McCammon, Robert. Boy’s Life. Penguin, 
ISBN 0-14-015998-3, 538pp, paperback, 
£4.99. (Horror/suspense novel, first pub- 
lished in the USA, 1991; the author’s 
acknowledgments include tributes to “Mr 
Rod Serling” and “Mr Ray Bradbury,”) 25th 
March 1993. 

McCrone, John. The Myth of Irrationality; 
The Science of the Mind from Plato to Star 
Trek. Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-57284-X, 
xiH-340pp, hardcover, £16,99, (Popular 
science text, first edition; this new work by 
the author of The Ape That Spoke 
endeavours to counter the long-held notion 
that human beings are fundamentally irra- 
tional; there are passing references fo sci- 
ence fiction throughout, though in truth 
Star Trek doesn’t have much to do with the 
subject in hand; an interesting read.) 23rd 
April 1993. 

Maitland, Sara. Women Fly When Men 
Aren’t Watching: Short Stories. Virago, 
ISBN 1-85381-559-4, 191pp, paperback, 
£5.99, (Mainstream/fantasy collection, first 
edition; some of these wide-ranging literary 
and feminist tales first appeared in maga- 
zines such as Bananas and Time Out and in 
anthologies such as Richard Dalby’s Virago 
Book of Ghost Stories and Alice Fell’s The 
Seven Deadly Sins.) 15th April 1993. 

May, Julian. Blood Trillium. Grafton, ISBN 
0-246-13761-4, 336pp, trade paperback, 
£8,99. (Fantasy novel, first published in the 
USA, 1992; sequel to Black Trillium; 
reviewed by Wendy Bradley in Interzone 
64.) 22nd April 1993. 

Moorcock, Michael. The Dancers at the 
End of Time. “The Tale of the Eternal 
Champion, Vol. 7.” Orion/Millennium, 
ISBN 1-85798-035-2, 538pp, hardcover, 
£14.99. (Sf omnibus, first edition in this 
form [which is specified as revised]; there is 
a simultaneous trade paperback edition 
priced at £10,99; it contains: An Alien Heat 
[1972], The Hollow Lands [1974] and The 
End of All Songs [1976] plus a short preface 
by the author; these three novels have pre- 
viously appeared in an omnibus edifion 
from Grafton Books; one of Moorcock’s best 
works, recommended.) 8th April 1993. 

Moorcock, Michael. Gloriana; or, The 
Unfiilfill’d Queen. Phoenix, ISBN 1-85799- 
041-2, 368pp, paperback, £5.99. (Fantasy 
novel, first published in 1978; a new 
author’s note states; “This edition is sig- 
nificantly revised from all previous English 
language editions”; one of Moorcock’s 
major works, highly recommended.) 1st 
April 1993. 

Naylor, Grant. Primordial Soup: Red 
Dwarf Scripts. Penguin, ISBN 0-14- 
017886-4, vii-l-151pp, paperback, £4,99, 
(Humorous sf television scripts, first edi- 
fion; “Grant Naylor” is a pseudonym for 
Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, who are trying 
very very hard to be the next Douglas 
Adams - with some degree of success, it 
would seem, as videotapes of their prog- 
rammes have now sold quarter of a million 
copies.) 25th March 1993. 

Niven, Larry, and Jerry Pournelle. The 
Moat Around Murchison’s Eye. HarperCol- 
lins, ISBN 0-00-224165-X, 402pp, hard- 
cover, £14.99. (Sf novel, first edition [?]; 
sequel to The Mote in God’s Eye, “eighteen 
years in the making”; and, yes, the different 
spellings of “Moat/Mote” are correct.) 5th 
April 1993. 

Nodier, Charles. Smarra & Trilby. Trans- 
lated by Judith Landry. Introduction by 
John Clute, Dedalus, ISBN 0-946626-79-0, 
125pp, paperback, £6,99. (Fantasy collec- 
tion, first edition; these two short novels, 
described by Clute as “sleek and flowing 
and highly unsafe,” were published origi- 
nally in France, 1821-22; apparently, this is 
their first appearance in English.) 15th 
April 1993. 

Norton, Andre, and Mercedes Lackey. The 
Elvenbane: An Epic High Fantasy of the 
Halfblood Chronicles. Grafton, ISBN 0- 
586-21687-1, 575pp, paperback, £5.99. 
(Fantasy novel, first published in the USA, 
1991; reviewed by Wendy Bradley in Inter- 
zone 54.) 26th April 1993. 

Peary, Danny. Alternate Oscars; One Cri- 
tic’s Defiant Choices for Best Picture, 
Actor, and Actress - From 1927 to the Pre- 
sent. Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-671-71239- 
X, 325pp, trade paperback, £12.99. (Film 
criticism, first published in the USA, 1993; 
what is the relevance of this book to Inter- 
zone?- well, it turns out that Peary is an sf/ 
fantasy/horror movie buff, and many of his 
choices of films which ought to have won 
an Oscar belong more or less to our genres; 
for example, he thinks that in 1933 King 
Kong should have won instead of Caval- 
cade: in 1939. The Wizard of Oz instead of 
Gone With the Wind; in 1946, It’s a Won- 
derful Life instead of The Best Years of Our 
Lives; in 1955, The Night of the Hunter 
instead of Marty; in 1960, Psycho instead of 
The Apartment; in 1964, Dr Strangeiove 
instead of My Fair Lady; in 1965, Repulsion 
instead of The Sound of Music; in 1968, 
2001; A Space Odyssey instead of Oliver!; 
in 1982, E.T. instead of Gandhi; in 1985, 
Brazil instead of Out of Africa: on a tangen- 
tial note, of interest to Ballard fans, he even 
thinks that in 1987 Spielberg’s Empire of 
the Sun should have won instead of Ber- 
tolucci’s The Last Emperor; who are we to 

intorzone July 1993 67 

disagree with him? - Peary also writes 
intelligently about all the films, actors and 
actresses he discusses, and of course he 
gives laurels to all those lovely people, from 
Cary Grant to Marilyn Monroe, who never 
actually got within smelling distance of an 
Academy Award; an enjoyable book, 
recommended.) 25th March 1993. 

Pike, Christopher. Bury Me Deep. Hodder & 
Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-58268-5, 189pp, 
paperback, £3.99. (Juvenile horror/sus- 
pense novel, first published in the USA, 
1991.) 18th March 1993. 

Rawn, Melanie. The Dragon Token; Dragon 
Star, Book Two. Pan, ISBN 0-330-32897-2, 
xii-l-574pp, trade paperback, £8.99. (Fan- 
tasy novel, first published in the USA, 
1992; there is a simultaneous hardcover 
edition [not seen); reviewed by Wendy 
Bradley in Interzone 61.) 8th April 1993. 

Rawn, Melanie. Stronghold: Dragon Star, 
Book One. Pan, ISBN 0-330-32633-3, 
588pp, paperback, £5.99. (Fantasy novel, 
first published in the USA, 1990; reviewed 
by Wendy Bradley in Interzone 60.) 8th 
April 1993. 

Richardson, Michael, ed. The Dedalus 
Book of Surrealism (The Identity of 
Things). Dedalus, ISBN 1-873982-45-3, 
277pp, paperback, £8.99. (Anthology of 
surrealistic tales and other prose pieces, 
first edition; authors represented include 
Louis Aragon, Andre Breton, Luis Bunuel, 
Roger Caillois, Leonora Carrington, Sal- 
vador Dali, Robert Desnos, Octavio Paz and 
Raymond Queneau among many others; 
most of the pieces are brief, and are here 
translated into English for the first time; 
recommended for the adventurous.) 15fh 
April 1993. 

Shaw, Bob. How to Write Science Fiction. 
Allison & Busby, ISBN 0-7490-0135-6, 
158pp, paperback, £6.99. (Sf writers’ “how- 
to” book, first edition; an extract appeared 
in Interzone 67; originally announced for 
January 1993, this book’s appearance was 
delayed by three months due to the 
takeover of the publishing house: Allison & 
Busby is now a subsidiary of Wilson & Day 
Ltd.) 22nd March 1993. 

Shaw, Bob. Killer Planet. Pan/Piper, ISBN 
0-330-31696-6, 105pp, paperback, £2.99. 
(Juvenile sf novel, first published in 1989.) 
8th April 1993. 

Silverberg, Robert, ed. Murasaki; A Novel 
in Six Parts. Grafton, ISBN 0-586-21445-3, 
xH-290pp, paperback, £5.99. (Round-robin 
sf novel, first published in the USA, 1992; 
the contributing authors are Poul Ander- 
son, Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David 
Brin, Nancy Kress and Frederik Pohl; 
reviewed by Paul McAuley in Interzone 
61.) 29th March 1993. 

Smith, Guy N. The Knighton Vampires. 
Piatkus, ISBN 0-7499-0180-2, 183pp, 

hardcover, £14.99. (Horror novel, first edi- 
tion.) 29th April 1993. 

Stableford, Brian. Sexual Chemistry: Sar- 
donic Tales of the Genetic Revolution. Poc- 
ket, ISBN 0-671-71559-3, 374pp, paper- 
back, £4.99. (Sf collection, first published 
in 1991; reviewed by John Clute in Inter- 
zone 50; Pocket Books [UK] is a new paper- 
back subsidiary of Simon & Schuster [UK], 
who first published this book in hard- 
cover.) 22nd April 1993. 

Taylor, Roger. Farnor. Headline, ISBN 0- 
7472-3999-1, 566pp, paperback, £5.99. 
(Fantasy novel, first published in 1992; 
apparently, although we only learn this in a 
note at the end, it’s the first half of a two- 
part work called Nightfall; reviewed by 
Wendy Bradley in Interzone 70.) 15th April 

Taylor, Roger. Valderen: Part Two ofNight- 
68 interzone July 1993 

fail. Headline, ISBN 0-7472-0748-8, 343pp, 
hardcover, £16.99. (Fantasy novel, first edi- 
tion.) 1st April 1993. 

Tepper, Sheri S. Sideshow. HarperCollins, 
ISBN 0-00-223949-3, 467pp, hardcover, 
£15.99. (Sf novel, first published in the 
USA, 1992; reviewed by John Clute in Inter- 
zone 59.) 22nd April 1993. 

Tine, Robert. Forever Young. “Based on the 
screenplay by Jeffrey Abrams.” Penguin/ 
Signet, ISBN 0-45-117779-7, 172pp, paper- 
back, £4.99. (Sf movie novelization, first 
published in the USA, 1992; basically an 
old-fashioned timeslip romance, it’s the 
book of the recent Mel Gibson film directed 
by Steve Miner; author Robert Tine also 
wrote the novelization of the sf movie Univ- 
ersal Soldier, among many others.) 25th 
March 1993. 

Tracy, Ann, Winter Hunger. Virago, ISBN 
1-85381-555-1, 165pp, paperback, £5.99. 
(Horror [?[ novel, first published in Canada, 
1990; this is a first novel by the author of a 
non-fiction book called Patterns of Fear in 
the Gothic Novel [1980]; it concerns the 
Indian myth of the “Windigo,” and the 
blurb describes it as a “Gothic tale”; Mar- 
garet Atwood commends it,) 15th April 

Vidal, Gore. Duluth. Introduction by the 
author. Abacus, ISBN 0-349-10362-3, 
x-l-307pp, paperback, £5.99. (Satirical fan- 
tasy novel, first published in the USA, 
1983; the elegant, if somewhat egotistical, 
new introduction which accompanies this 
edition also appears in the three other 
reprinted novels itemized below.) 22nd 
April 1993. 

Vidal, Gore, Kalki. Introduction by the 
author. Abacus, ISBN 0-349-10363-1, 
x-l-310pp, paperlrack, £5.99. (Satirical sf 
novel, first published in the USA, 1978; the 
blurh describes the hookas a “metaphysical 
thriller”; like Vidal’s other ventures into sf/ 
fantasy, all now reprinted by Abacus in one 
uniform package, it’s essentially unclassifi- 
able.) 22nd April 1993. 

Vidal, Gore. Messiah. Introduction by the 
author. Abacus, ISBN 0-349-10364-X, 
x-l-244pp, paperback, £5.99, (Satirical sf 
novel, first published in the USA, 1954; this 
reprint follows the revised text of the 1965 
ecfition; Vidal’s earliest attempt at sf/fan- 
tasy, recommended,) 22nd April 1993. 

Vidal, Gore. Myra Breckinridge & Myron. 
Introduction by the author. Abacus, ISBN 
0-349-10365-8, viii-l-440pp, paperback, 
£6.99. (Satirical fantasy omnibus, first pub- 
lished in the USA, 1986; the individual 
novels were originally published in 1968 
and 1974; among the ultimate “Hollywood 
fictions,” about a world where celluloid 
fantasies and everyday reality penetrate 
each other [much like our own world, in 
fact], these are two of Vidal’s best-known 
and most irreverent works.) 22nd April 

Whittington, Harry. The Man from 
U.N.C.L.E.: 'The Doomsday Affair. Boxtree, 
ISBN 1-85283-882-5, 155pp, paperback, 
£3.99. (Sf/thriller TV novelization, first 
published in the USA, 1965; second in the 
“U.N.C.L.E.” series; the author was perhaps 
best known for his westerns and historical 
novels, but also wrote many movie noveli- 
zations in various genres.) 29th April 1993. 

Williams, Tad. To Green Angel Tower. 
“The final volume of Memory, Sorrow and 
Thorn.” Legend, ISBN 0-09-926221-5, 
xix-l-1083pp, hardcover, £16.99. (Fantasy 
novel, first edition [?]; at well over a 
thousand pages, this is a very big book by an 
American author now resident in Britain.) 
1st April 1993. 

Wilson, F. Paul. Sister Night. New English 

Library, ISBN 0-450-57618-3, 314pp, 

hardcover, £15,99, (Horror novel, first pub- 
lished in the USA as Sibs, 1991.) 18th 
March 1993, 

Wright, Glover. Shadow of Bahel. Macmil- 
lan, ISBN 0-333-59184-4, 325pp, hard- 
cover, £14.99. (Near-future thriller, first 
edition; proof copy received; it’s by a 
British author who has been praised by Jack 
Higgins and others; according to the blurb, 
“deep beneath the Mojave desert is a project 
abandoned by the old Soviet Union - a pro- 
ject named BABEL, which threatens the 
world order, and history itself.”) 9th July 

Wylie, Jonathan. Dark Fire: Island and 
Empire, Book One. Corgi, ISBN 0-552- 
13978-5, 333pp, paperback, £3.99. (Fantasy 
novel, first edition; “Jonathan Wylie” is a 
pseudonym for Mark and Julia Smith.) 
22nd April 1993. 

Overseas Books Received 

Anderson, Poul. Harvest of Stars. Tor, 
ISBN 0-312-85277-0, 395pp, hardcover, 
$22.95. (Sf novel, first edition; proof copy 
received; “classic science fiction at its 
finest,” raves the hlurb, “a towering 
achievement from one of the field’s most 
powerful writers.”) August 1993. 

Bukatman, Scott. Terminal Identity: The 
Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fic- 
tion. Duke University Press, ISBN 0-8223- 
1340-5, xiii-l-396pp, hardcover & trade 
paperback, $57.95 & $18.95. (Critical study 
of contemporary sf, first edition; proof copy 
received; despite its academic “postmoder- 
nist” name-dropping - Jean Baudrillard, 
Fredric Jameson and Donna Haraway are 
the gods who rule this sealed microcosm — 
it looks to be a very interesting book, with 
sections on J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, Wil- 
liam Burroughs, David Cronenberg, Wil- 
liam Gibson, Bruce Sterling, graphic 
novels, computer games, sf movies, etc, etc; 
there are also welcome mentions of such 
older prophets of the postmodern as Ber- 
nard Wolfe [Limbo] and Marshall McLu- 
han; recommended to the serious-minded 
who are in search of a brave new valoriza- 
tion of this thing we call science fiction.) 
July 1993. 

Carver, Jeffrey A, Dragon Rigger, Tor, ISBN 
0-312-85061-1, 474pp, hardcover, $22.95. 
(Sf novel, first edition: proof copy received; 
it’s a new book in the author’s series about 
the “Star Rigger Universe.”) June 1993. 

Clarke , Arthur C. The Hammer of God .Ban- 
tam, ISBN 0-553-09557-9, xi-l-226pp, 

hardcover, $19.95. (Sf novel, first edition; 
proof copy received; the new Clarke books 
keep on coming, which is heartening; how- 
ever, with its short chapters and large print, 
this one is very slim - it’s really only a 
novella.) 15th June 1993. 

Donaldson, Stephen R., ed. Strange 
Dreams: Unforgettable Fantasy Stories. 
Bantam, ISBN 0-553-37103-7, xi-l-544pp, 
trade paperback, $12.95. (Fantasy anthol- 
ogy, first edition; proof copy received; it 
contains reprinted stories by Michael 
Bishop, Jorge Luis Borges, Orson Scott 
Card, C.J. Cherryh, Harlan Ellison, M. John 
Harrison, Franz Kafka, Garry Kilworth, 
Rudyard Kipling, R,A. Lafferty, Patricia A. 
McKillip, Rachel Pollack, Lucius Shepard, 
Theodore Sturgeon, Sheri S, Tepper, Jack 
Vance and many others,) 15th June 1993. 

Dozois, Gardner, Tina Lee, Stanley 
Schmidt, Ian Randal Struck and Sheila Wil- 
liams, eds. Writing Science Fiction and 
Fantasy. St Martin’s Press, ISBN 0-312- 
08926-0, viii-t264pp, trade paperback, 
$8.95. (Collection of essays on the writing 

of sf, first published in the USA, 1991; it 
includes reprinted essays by Poul Ander- 
son, Isaac Asimov, Hal Clement, Robert A, 
Heinlein, Norman Spinrad, Jane Yolen and 
others; the numerous editors are all on the 
staff of the magazines Analog and 
Asimov’s; the market listings [which 
include mention of InterzoneJ have been 
updated for this edition.) 23rd March 1993. 
Dwiggins, Toni. Interrupt. Tor, ISBN 0- 
312-85345-9, 317pp, hardcover, $19.95, 
(Mystery/technothriller, first edition; a 
debut novel by a woman writer who “lives 
on the edge of California’s Silicon Valley.’’) 
Late entry: 16th February publication, 
received in March 1993. 

James, Peter. Twilight. St Martin’s Press, 
ISBN 0-312-08914-7, 316pp, hardcover, 
$19.95. (Horror novel, first published in the 
UK, 1991; reviewed by Mary Gentle in 
Interzone 56.) 24th March 1993. 

Jones, Gwyneth, White Queen. Tor, ISBN 0- 
312-85492-7, 316pp, hardcover, $19.95. (Sf 
novel, first published in the UK, 1991; 
proof copy received; co- winner of the James 
Tiptree Memorial Award; reviewed by John 
Clute in Interzone 56.) June 1993. 

Norton, Andre. Golden Trillium, Bantam, 
ISBN 0-553-09507-2, 296pp, hardcover, 
$21.95. (Fantasy novel, first edition; proof 
copy received; third in the “Trillium” 
series, the first volume having been written 
by Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley and 
Julian May together, and the second vol- 
ume by Julian May solus.) 15th July 1993. 

Robeson, Kenneth. The Whistling Wraith. 
“Doc Savage.” Bantam, ISBN 0-553-29554- 
3, 274pp, paperback, $4.99. (Sf/adventure 
novel, first edition; proof copy received; 
this is the sixth in a new series of pulp-style 
adventures written by Will Murray in the 
style of the late Lester Dent, who was the 
original user of the house pseudonym 
“Kenneth Robeson.”) 1st June 1993. 

Schweitzer, Darrell. Transients and Other 
Disquieting Stories. Illustrated by Stephen 
E. Fabian. W. Paul Ganley; Publisher [PO 
Box 149, Amherst Branch, Buffalo, NY 
14226-0149, USA], ISBN 0-932445-55-1, 
191pp, trade paperback, $8.95 [plus $1 

f )OStage outside USA). (Fantasy/horror col- 
ection, first edition; there is a simultane- 
ous hardcover edition [not seen).) No date 
shown: March 1993? 

Watt-Evans, Lawrence, and Esther M. 
Friesner. Split Heirs. Tor, ISBN 0-312- 
85320-3, 319pp, hardcover, $18.95. 

(Humorous fantasy novel, first edition; 
proof copy received; this is one punning 
title which made us chuckle; in part, the 
blurb states that the book is “a penetrating 
deconstruction of the subtext of modern 
‘high’ fantasy, deploying carefully chosen 
genre tropes throughout a nominally-con- 
structed secondary creation in order to pro- 
voke in the reader that sense of numinous 
intertextuality so crucial to the ineffable 
[cont. on page 842).”) Late entry; 36th Feb- 
ruary publication, received in March 1993, 

Weis, Margaret, Ghost Legion; Star of the 
Guardians, Volume Four. Bantam, ISBN 0- 
553-56331-9, 534pp, paperback, $5.99, (Sf/ 
fantasy novel, first edition; proof copy 
received.) July 1993. 

Wiater, Stanley, ed. After the Darkness. 
Maclay [P.O. Box 16253, Baltimore, MD 
21210, USA), ISBN 0-940776-28-6, 241pp, 
hardcover, $50. (Horror anthology, first edi- 
tion; this is a collectors’ item, published in 
a limited edition of 750 signed, slipcased 
copies; it includes all-original stories by 
Gary Brandner, Nancy A. Collins, Les 
Daniels, Ed Gorman, Richard Laymon, 
Graham Masterton, Thomas F, Monteleone, 
William F. Nolan, Thomas Tessier, Chet 
Williamson and others.) No date shown: 
received in March 1993. 

Wisman, Ken, Weird Family Tales: A Jour- 
nal of Familial Maledictions. Earth Prime 
Productions [PO Box 29127, Parma, OH 
44129, USA[, no ISBN shown, vil-66pp, 
paperback, $3.75. (Horror/fantasy collec- 
tion, first edition; this is a small-press debut 
book by an American writer who has contri- 
buted a couple of stories to Interzone in the 
past.) April 1993, 

Mutant Popcorn 

Continued from page 43 

swerves and swoops (“Inventory says 
the capsule was a water heater, sir . . . . 
Such ruthless economy has both its 
rewards and its costs. As hy now stan- 
dard in the contemporary Hollywood 
timeslipper, any sense of actual his- 
tory is perfunctorily devalued to a 
merest sense of period, hut it’s still 
refreshing to see one fish-out-of-water 
timejump movie that resists any kind 
of judgmental comparison between 
eras. Forever Young simply has so 
much dramatic business to get through 
that it hasn’t the time itself to run 
through most of the dreary gosh-a- 
or whatever-happened-to-real-lemon- 
ade rituals, beyond a few token lessons 
in how to talk to an answerphone or 
drink from a modern strawpack. 

On the other hand, the lump under 
the rug where the unwanted questions 
have been swept gets so enormous by 
the final scenes that when finally Mel 
gets together with his truelove under 
sunset filters and swelling music to 
model their Dick Smith creations 
together and pop the question post- 
poned these hundred and ten minutes, 
the sense of ending is seriously under- 
mined by nagging yes-huts. Erm, is he 
going to pop clogs now, or what? Does 
he stop ageing once he makes 85? Are 
these guys trying to fob us off with 
closural ambivalence? Isn’t this sup- 
posed to be an Airfix movie, seam- 
lessly assembled and accurately 
painted from standard components 
and charts? We want questions that 
linger in the mind about time and mor- 
tality, we’ll watch some arty lo-budget 
British hodgepodge bricolated out of 
haphazard coproduction scraps 
laboriously scavenged from half 
around the globe: films where you 
applaud the ambitions and forgive the 
execution, rather than the other way 
about. From Hollywood, we expect 
those onions chopped fine, 

(Nick Lowe) 

Back issues of Interzone are 
available at £2.50 each 
(£2.80 overseas). 


Some back-issue highlights: 

No. 29: “Sex Wars” issue; stories 
by Greg Egan, Karen Joy Fowler, 
Garry Kilworth, etc. 

No. 32: Richard Gaidar’s debut, 
‘Mosquito,” plus fiction by Barry 
Bayley, Ian McDonald 

No. 34: All new writers’ issue, 
illustrated throughout by Ian 

No.36: Kim Newman’s “Original 
Dr Shade” plus stories by Greg 
Egan, Simon Ings & others 

No. 38: Brian Aldiss issue, with 
interview by Golin Greenland, 
plus Greg Bear, etc. 

No.42: All-female issue, with Pat 
Murphy, Lisa Tuttle, illustrated 
by Judith Glute 

No.43: “In the Air,” Newman & 
Byrne’s first USSA story, plus 
Langford, Jeapes, etc. 

No.48: All-star “Aboriginal” swap 
issue, with Brown, Egan, Griffith, 
McAuley, etc. 

No.50: Stephen Baxter, Ian Lee & 
others, plus full index of first fifty 

No.53: Fiction by Ghristopher 
Evans, Ian R. MacLeod; Jonathan 
Carroll interview 

No. 56: Ian Watson’s “Coming of 
Vertumnus” plus Ballard, Di 
Filippo, Mapes, Webb, etc. 

No. 58: Our tenth anniversary 
issue, with Ballard, Storm 
Constantine, M. John Harrison 

No. 60: Fantasy issue, with Garry 
Kilworth’s “The Sculptor”; 
Donaldson interview and more 

No.63: David Garnett, Diane 
Mapes, Ian Watson; Greenland & 
Sheckley interviews 

No. 66: Eugene Byrne’s “Cyril the 
Cyberpig” plus Elizabeth Hand, 
John Sladek, etc. 

No. 67: Bob Shaw issue, with 
stories by Baxter, Blanchard, 
Harrison & Ings 

No. 70: Molly Brown, Keith 
Brooke, Nicola Griffith, Brian 
Stableford and others 

All these issues are still in stock. 

intprzono July 1993 69 


FOR SALE; SF/F, horror, mysteries, 
etc. Books, magazines, comics. lOOO's. 
Free search. Buying, trading. JS, 1500 
Main Avenue, Kaukauna, Wisconsin 
54130, USA. 

SF/FANTASY, weird paperbacks, 
pulps and guides. SAE to Zardoz Books, 
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FORD: The Asgard trilogy (three paper- 
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free in the UK. Order from Brian Stab- 
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Berks. RG6 IPG. 

comprehensive search for those elusive 
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issued regularly. Approx. 1000 books 
each list, mainly paperbacks, all reason- 
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(Simon & Schuster) hardcover - now 
only £5.00 (postage paid) from The Unli- 
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David Langford's legendary SF review 
columns. Revised/reset, 70,000 words 
softbound. £9.75 post free from: David 
Langford, 94 London Road, Reading 
RG1 5AU. 

OTHER VOICES - the two linked fan- 
tasy novels I wrote before Take Back 
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We bring you an outstanding, award-winning, collaborative story by Robert 
Holdstock and Garry Kilworth, among other good fiction. We also have an 
interesting essay by Brian Stableford, plus all our usual reviews and features. 
So look out for the August Interzone, on sale in July. 

70 interzono July 1993 

Author Interviews in Interzone 

(Issues 13-73 inclusive; we ran no interviews before issue 13. Interviewers’ 
names are given in brackets after interviewee.) 

Acker, Kathy (Stan Nicholls) #27, Jan/Feb 1989 
Adams, Douglas (Stan Nicholls) #66, Dec 1992 
Aldiss, Brian (Colin Greenland) #38, Aug 1990 
Asprin, Robert (Stan Nicholls) #60, Jun 1992 
Atwood, Margaret (Andrew Tidmarsh) #65, Nov 1992 
Ballard, J.G. (David Pringle) #22, Winter 87/88 
Ballard, J.G. (R. Kadrey & D. Pringle) #51, Sept 1991 
Banks, Iain (Kim Newman) #16, Summer 1986 
Barker, Clive (Kim Newman) #14, Winter 85/86 
Barnes, Steven, & Larry Niven (Stan Nicholls) #39, 
Sept 1990 

Barrow, John (Paul McAuley) #73, Jul 1993 
Baxter, Stephen (Colin Munro) #50, Aug 1991 
Bayley, Barrington (D. Pringle & A. Robertson) #35, 
May 1990 

Bear, Greg (Gregory Feeley) #37, Jul 1990 
Bisson, Terry (Gregory Feeley) #40, Oct 1990 
Bradbury, Ray (Stan Nicholls) #43, Jan 1991 
Brin, David (Stan Nicholls) #41, Nov 1990 
Brooks, Terry (Stan Nicholls) #60, Jun 1992 
Campbell, Ramsey (Phillip Vine) #28, Mar/Apr 1989 
Carroll, Jonathan (Dave Hughes) #53, Nov 1991 
Cherryh, C.J. (Stan Nicholls) #31, Sep/Oct 1989 
Coney, Michael (David V. Barrett) #32, Nov/Dec 1989 
Constantine, Storm (Stan Nicholls) #58 Apr 1992 
Cooper, Louise (Stan Nicholls) #71, May 1993 
Crowley, John (Gregory Feeley) #21, Autumn 1987 
D’ Amato, Brian (Dave Hughes) #72, Jun 1993 
Disch, Thomas M. (Gregory Feeley) #24, Summer 


Donaldson, Stephen (Stan Nicholls) #60, Jun 1992 
Dozois, Gardner (Stan Nicholls) #53, Nov 1991 
Egan, Greg (J. Byrne & J. Strahan) #73, Jul 1993 
Fowler, Christopher (Dave Hughes) #55, Jan 1992 
Fowler, Karen Joy (Paul Kincaid) #23, Spring 1988 
Gallagher, Stephen (David V. Barrett) #31, Sep/Oct 


Gentle, Mary (Colin Greenland) #42, Dec 1990 
Gibson, William (J. Hanna &J. Nicholas) #13, Autumn 

Goldstein, Lisa (Pat Murphy) #42, Dec 1990 
Greenland, Colin (Stan Nicholls) #63, Sept 1992 
Haldeman, Joe (Stan Nicholls) #44, Feb 1991 
Hardy, David A. (Chris Morgan) #69, Mar 1993 
Harrison, Harry (John Shreeve) #72, Jun 1993 
Harrison, M. John (Paul Kincaid) #18, Winter 86/87 
Holdstock, Robert (Stan Nicholls) #45, Mar 1991 
Holt, Tom (Brendan Wignall) #56, Feb 1992 
Jeter, K.W. (Les Escott) #22, Winter 87/88 
Jones, Gwyneth (Paul Kincaid) #19, Spring 1987 
Kennedy, Leigh (Paul Kincaid) #26, Nov/Dec 1988 
Kerr, Katharine (Stan Nicholls) #71, May 1993 
Kilworth, Garry (Gwyneth Jones) #62, Aug 1992 
Lee, Stan (Steve Green) #59, May 1992 

Lee, Tanith (Peter Garratt) #64, Oct 1992 
Le Guin, Ursula (Colin Greenland) #45, Mar 1991 
McAleer, Neil (Liz Holliday) #66, Dec 1992 
Mann, Phillip (Liz Holliday) #68, Feb 1993 
Martin, George R.R. (Liz Holliday) #70, Apr 1993 
Moorcock, Michael (Golin Greenland) #29, May/Jun 

Morrell, David (Kim Newman) #51, Sept 1991 
Morrow, James (Gregory Feeley) #46, Apr 1991 
Murphy, Pat (Lisa Goldstein) #42, Dec 1990 
Newman, Kim (Roz Kaveney) #36, Jun 1990 
Niven, Larry, & Steven Barnes (Stan Nicholls) #39, 
Sept 1990 

Park, Paul (Nick Griffiths) #61, Jul 1992 
Pohl, Frederik (Stan Nicholls) #68 Feb 1993 
Pollack, Rachel (Colin Greenland) #50, Aug 1991 
Pratchett, Terry (Paul Kincaid) #25, Sep/Oct 1988 
Pratchett, Terry (Brendan Wignall) #51, Sept 1991 
Rankin, Robert (Golin Munro) #54, Dec 1991 
Rice, Anne (Katherine Ramsland) #51, Sept 1991 
Robinson, Kim Stanley (Stan Nicholls) #70 Apr 1993 
Rucker, Rudy (Richard Kadrey) #20, Summer 1987 
Ryman, Geoff (Stan Nicholls) #33, Jan/Feb 1990 
Shaw, Bob (Helen Wake) #67, Jan 1993 
Sheckley, Robert (Stan Nicholls) #63, Sept 1992 
Shepard, Lucius (Wendy Counsil) #34, Mar/Apr 1990 
Shirley, John (Richard Kadrey) #17, Autumn 1986 
Silverberg, Robert (Stan Nicholls) #52, Oct 1991 
Simmons, Dan (Stan Nicholls) #59, May 1992 
Sladek, John (Gregory Feeley) #30, Jul/Aug 1989 
Stableford, Brian (Roz Kaveney) #27, Jan/Feb 1989 
Sterling, Bruce (D. Pringle & A. Robertson) #15, 
Spring 1986 

Sutin, Lawrence (Andrew Tidmarsh) #56, Feb 1992 
Swanwick, Michael (Stan Nicholls) #62, Aug 1992 
Tuttle, Lisa (Stan Nicholls) #29, May/Jun 1989 
Waldrop, Howard (Gregory Feeley) #52, Oct 1991 
Williams, Tad (Stan Nicholls) #49, Jul 1991 
Wingrove, David (Stan Nicholls) #48, Jun 1991 
Wolfe, Gene (Elliott Swanson) #17, Autumn 1986 
Womack, Jack (Paul McAuley) #69, Mar 1993 

Back issues of Interzone 
are available at £2.50 each 
(£2.80 overseas) from the 
address shown on page 3. 

interzone July 1993 71 

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